I am saddened that the Senate passed a bill that would open the door to privatization of the country’s largest health care system. My family is full of brave veterans. My father, sister, brother and daughter have all served in times of war and peace. I know the work of the VA first hand, not only as a family member but in the past as their union representative. Today I will stand with my husband at Bolingbrook’s Memorial Day service recognizing those that have fought and died for our county.
Once signed by President Trump, the VA MISSION Act, which focuses on funneling dollars to the private, for-profit sector, will allow for the outsourcing of 36 health care categories including mental health care and spinal cord injury care and allow a private corporate-style commission with unfettered power to decide which VA facilities to close. The act will force veterans into a for-profit private hospital after the closure of their VA.
By voting to pass S. 2372, Congress is punting on their responsibility to care for the men and women who have served our country and are taking an extremely dangerous step toward privatization. It is a sad day for the 9.3 million veterans who rely on the VA for their health care and for the more than 120,000 veterans who work there.
There were a few Senators that had the wisdom to stand up against privatization. Senators Cory Booker, Jeff Merkley, Mike Rounds, Bernie Sanders, and Brian Schatz thank you for standing up to privatizers by siding with veterans and the working people who serve them every day. I am also thankful to the many House members who stood by veterans and working people as well.
Earlier this week, I toured the old Joliet Prison, where over 160 years ago elected officials learned that privatization of prisons was not in the best interest of the Country, time and time again we learn through these failed experiments that privitatization of government work doesn’t work. I will continue to reject the VA MISSION Act because, “Too much is at stake for veterans, their families and everyone who benefits from the VA’s extraordinary accomplishments to succumb to political pressures to hurriedly pass potentially damaging changes with many unknown consequences.”
Since the 2014 waitlist crisis was first exposed by rank-and-file workers – many of whom are facing firing or the closure of their VA facility now – American Federation of Government Employees has been sounding the alarm on corporate interests seeking the privatize the VA. Now privatizers backed by the Koch brothers are closer than ever to achieving the goal of making a buck off the backs of our veterans while forcing them into an inferior system of care.
“We made a promise to veterans when they signed up to serve that they would be taken care of when they got home – not forced to wait in longer lines at private, walk-in clinics,” said the American Federation of Government Employees National VA Council President Alma Lee. “These brave men and women didn’t risk life and limb to receive inferior care outside of the only health care system tailored to their unique needs.” And I agree.