Corporate politicians are privatizing Veterans Administration, a jewel of socialized medicine

When the new House Republican majority played an ongoing game of chicken with the White House over raising the federal debt ceiling last month and passed a bill to cut government spending, they also said they wanted a mandatory bill for veterans, a longtime voter. Services were also targeted. own party. The 2023 Limits, Savings and Growth Act included a proposal to cut funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by 22 percent.

Right-wing Republicans have rushed to provide a political cover for themselves, claiming that “our budget cuts plan will not harm veterans.” Mike Bost, a former Marine from Illinois and now chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said his conservative colleagues were wondering if veterans’ funding “actually helps veterans.” He claimed he was simply trying to force a long-overdue debate about what.

Fortunately, a veteran patient who was elected to Congress last year took to the floor of the House to denounce the Republican majority for passing the “BS Plan”, an “absolute betrayal and disgrace.”Former Navy Officer Chris Delzio (D-Pennsylvania) I got itHouse Republicans threaten to blow up our economy and force us into default unless we agree to cut veterans and veterans and many other cuts. is not. [. . .] Millions of veterans will be screwed by this plan. They will miss the care they used to receive and will have to wait even longer to receive benefits. “

Delgio’s fiery speech caught much media attention and set the mood for other Democrats such as Joe Biden and California Congressman Mark Takano, who have echoed similar criticisms of Republican hypocrisy. Democratic consultants and strategists have already envisioned an offensive ad focused on Republican support for cuts in veterans benefits that will be aired next year as the White House tries to separate the “veterans vote” from right-wing candidates. There is no doubt that

There is one downside to the upcoming paid media onslaught. This further obscures the fact that the current threats to veterans programs do not come solely from the House Majority or conservative Republicans in the Senate like Jerry Moran (R-K.S.). right. Mr. Biden and pro-business lawmakers are hurting veterans by undermining the provision of public care for them. Moran, along with former Democrat Kirsten Sinema, just introduced the Transparency (Health) for Veterans Health Enhancement, Access, Leadership and Heroes Act of 2023, which will see the administration privatize veterans. will be forced to double

As this political alliance shows, phasing out direct care funding for nine million veterans has long been a bipartisan project. Three presidential administrations, from Barack Obama to Donald Trump to Biden, have argued that turning veteran patients into customers of the private health care industry is the best way to build the country’s largest public health care system and the most effective socialized health care model. It has embraced the idea that it is a better policy than hardening.

Veteran outsourcing has accelerated significantly since a coalition of conservative Republicans and corporate Democrats passed the Veterans Affairs Act of 2018. The bill, enacted by President Trump, and now Biden himself, diverts more than $30 billion annually from the VA’s direct medical budget and showers. That money goes to private medical practices and for-profit hospitals, often ill-equipped to treat veterans. This amount is roughly equivalent to the VA shortfall that would be created by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s greatest legislative accomplishment to date, the aforementioned Limits, Savings and Growth Act of 2023.

Thanks to the Mission Act, VA has partially turned itself into a Medicare-style payer of bills submitted by outside vendors, but it suffers from many of the same bureaucratic hassles, lax quality controls, fraud and It comes with opportunities for exploitation. Powerful private interests that have acquired this lucrative new federal revenue stream are fighting to maintain and expand it. Among them are the same companies that, with the aggressive support of the Trump and Biden administrations, are undermining traditional Medicare coverage by enlisting more than half of all seniors in Medicare Advantage programs. include.

As revealed by a 2022 House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, VA’s spending on private sector care surged 116 percent in the years following passage of the Mission Act, while veterans’ medical centers’ Funding for staff increased by only 32 percent. Since joining the committee in January, Delzio has become one of the few House Democrats to question the disastrous trend. At a recent hearing attended by VA Secretary Dennis McDonough, Mr. Delgio said he was “proud to be able to get medical care from VA,” saying the quality and cost-effectiveness of the service compared to the private sector. He pointed out that many research studies have confirmed that it is high.

In an exchange with McDonough, Delgio pointed to a continuing disparity in the Biden administration’s budget allocations for the care of fellow veterans between in-house and outsourced spending. He then asked McDonough, “Why is there such unilateral growth and what is constraining veterans’ ability to do more within veterans’ facilities? Please explain in detail,” he asked. Mr. McDonough hid behind a dishonest claim that Congress had his hands tied.

In fact, since January 2021, the Director of the Veterans Administration has failed to replace the Mission Act administrative rule promulgated under the Trump administration. The rule requires the VA to refer patients to millions of appointments outside its own system, where wait times were often long. In a report to Congress last September, McDonough made a worrying but accurate prediction that “the VA is rapidly approaching the point where half of all healthcare will be outsourced.” In the document, he acknowledged that in-hospital care is cheaper, faster, higher quality, and preferred by veterans themselves. But McDonough still maintains that his agency and its 1.2 million private contractors are in “healthy competition” that benefits patients, health care workers and the public.

Frontline caregivers strongly disagree with this assessment. Thousands responded to a survey last year by the Federation of American Civil Servants (AFGE), the largest veterans’ union. In the March 2023 report, Disadvantage Virginia, They warned that Biden’s continuation of Trump administration policies and personnel practices has severely compromised his ability to care for veterans. Survey respondents reported cutbacks in services, threats of facility closures, lack of new jobs, and attendant staffing shortages, with thousands of health professionals providing direct care to private sector healthcare delivery. exacerbated by the disruptive shift to monitoring the performance of individuals.

As the report endorsed by AFGE argues, “Even within the legal constraints of the Mission Act, Secretary McDonough advocated new regulations that put medical need, quality and timeliness of care above all else. It can be promulgated,” is the basis for referrals of patients to outside parties. VA. As in the past (i.e. before Obama, Trump and Biden), individual veterans can still be “sent out of the system if adequate care is not available within it.”

If Senator Cinema, a member of the Veterans Affairs Commission, which has half a million veterans among Arizona voters, fuels the momentum for further privatization, that course correction will never happen. Under the guise of expanding “veterans’ choice,” her Veterans Health Act “codifies and expands existing standards for determining when veterans are eligible for medical care.” So it will open the floodgates to outsourcing in new and more disruptive ways.” [non-VA] Care. “Some of the bill’s supporters include the Koch brothers-funded Veterans of Concern for America and the Independence Fund with ties to President Trump, as well as the Legion and Foreign War Veterans ( There are also long-standing proponents of VA privatization, such as VFW).

Both the conservative Legion and the VFW disappointed their members five years ago when they pressured Congress to pass the Mission Act, a capitulation to corporate medical interests. Unlike these legacy organizations, smaller progressive groups like Common Defense and Veterans for Peace have been working to privatize the Veterans Administration and all the associated poor, working-class America. Contests bipartisan attacks on social programs for people.

Two years ago, for example, Common Defense drew attention to Cinema’s relationship with two of the biggest beneficiaries of VA outsourcing: the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. Five former servicemen serving on the Veterans Affairs Advisory Board resigned in protest, and their actions escalated into a seven-figure ad buyout. Air Force veteran Silvia Gonzalez Andersch was among those who lashed out at the senator for “paying to big donors, not his own people.”

Common Defense Rep. and other Arizona voters betrayed by cinema are now rallying behind Rep. Ruben Gallego, a 43-year-old Marine veteran who is likely to be a Democratic challenger next year. Gallego, the son of immigrants from Colombia and Mexico and a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, launched his campaign in January at an event with fellow veterans at the Corps Garrison in Guadalupe, Arizona.

In that presentation and other interviews, he linked his battle with post-traumatic stress disorder to his decision to enter politics and fight for public programs like Medicare and the Veterans Administration. “The rich and powerful don’t need more advocates,” Gallego said. “People trying to decide between buying groceries and buying utilities need someone to fight for them.”

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