Unions, Allies Lead Charge Against VA Health Care Privatization Scheme

WASHINGTON — In prepared statements for a Sept. 7 congressional hearing, AFGE President J. David Cox, whose union represents most VA health care workers, spoke out against the proposed privatization of the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system.

The plan, proposed by an outside Commission on Care established two years ago, offers 15 recommendations for improving the VA health care system, which serves at least six million veterans and is the nation’s single largest health care/hospital system. The recommendations are the result of the scandal that unfolded two years ago, revealing management-falsified treatment records, long waits for care and retaliation against whistleblowers — including AFGE members.

The commission, urged on by private for-profit hospital executives tied to the anti-worker radical right Koch brothers, urged VA health care privatization.

Cox and the others pounced on that.

“Although the commission did not formally adopt the controversial ‘strawman’ proposal” by the pro-Koch members to totally privatize VA health care within a decade “the impact” of its privatization plan “would be very similar,” Cox said.

“Both would dismantle our veterans’ only specialized integrated health care system and incur unsustainable costs that will inevitably lead to lower quality care and fewer health care services for fewer veterans,” added Cox, a retired VA psychiatric nurse from North Carolina.

The union, which represents 230,000 VA health care workers, also strongly objected to the commission’s scheme “to eliminate all civil service protections” for VA workers. That “would increase retaliation against employees who report mismanagement and take veterans’ preference rights away from thousands of veterans who choose VHA careers,” he said.

President Obama also takes issues with the proposed plan. “I have concerns with the commission’s proposed governance structure for the VA health care system,” the president wrote. “The proposal would undermine the authority of the (VA) Secretary and the Under Secretary for Health, weaken the integration of the VA health care system with the other services and programs provided by the VA, and make it harder — not easier — for VA to implement transformative change.”

Source: PAI