Privatization puts VA (and USPS) at serious risk

Veterans are under attack. Two fronts have been opened, and veterans are at risk.

The current White House administration is on a privatization mission which, if completed, will adversely impact the health care of veterans – while simultaneously benefitting the private sector, e.g, major corporations.

Veterans depend on the Veterans Administration Health Services (VAHS) for the delivery of the medical services that best meet their needs. Veterans are also dependent on the Postal Service for timely delivery of their medications and pension and disability checks.

The strategy to privatize the VA and the Postal Service by slowly depleting the resources of the VAHS and the Postal Service is strikingly similar, that each agency will “die from a thousand cuts.”

Currently the VAHS is operating in part under the Mission Act, which was passed in 2018. A successor to the 2014 Choice Act, it was originally designed to provide access to services in the private sector when the nearest VA facility was at a distance, i.e., for veterans in rural locations, or the wait time at a VA facility was more than 30 days. But the Mission Act contains no provision for the integration of care between VA and non-VA providers, hence, opportunity for errors and a negative impact on the quality of care becomes more likely. In addition, the Mission Act does not require private-sector providers to be held to the same rigorous standards that makes VA health care for veterans superior to that in the private sector.

The VA is currently serving about 9 million veterans, 90% of whom are satisfied with their medical care. The “bad rap” visited upon the VA stemmed from a wait time scandal in (Albuquerque), Phoenix and other VA facilities in 2014. The Choice Act and the subsequent Mission Act were designed to compensate for these deficiencies. These problems have been addressed, however mischief is afoot.

In an effort to privatize the VA, the Trump administration has put into place a series of actions that will make the VA (underfunded and) ineffective. Veterans are being referred to private providers, even in situations where the patient lives a few blocks away from a VA hospital and the wait time for an appointment (there) is shorter. Under the new arbitrary standards for distance and wait time, there is a potential for up to 40% of veterans to become eligible for outsourcing. The funds for these private-sector services are and will continue to be drawn from existing VA budgets, further depleting the VA budget under attack.

Cut the patient load at the VA, cut the funding at the VA, diminish the level of care at the VA and you have a perfect storm for privatization. Death by a thousand cuts.

What would be lost if the VA were privatized? The largest training resource for medical and health professionals; each year 120,000 physicians and medical specialists are trained by the VA. A backup service for the private sector when it becomes overwhelmed, as is happening during this pandemic. Advancement in research and development in health care, e.g., CfT scans, liver transplants, shingles vaccine, nicotine patch and more.

It is far better to improve the current medical services of the VA rather than to privatize. Expand care to the more than 4,700,000 rural veterans by creating rural clinics, VA mobile clinics and telemedicine under the supervision of each veteran’s primary VA doctor.

Do not allow the (VAHS) to become another insurance company rather than a provider of health care. In the words of Will Fischer, a retired Iraq veteran of the U.S. Medical Corps, “Privatization is a fancy way of saying we’re taking tax dollars out of the VA and putting it into the pockets of millionaires and billionaires.” This exact sentiment applies to the post office equally.

Contact members of your congressional delegation and tell them to save our VA and the Postal Service.

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