VA’s Future Debated by Presidential Candidates, Congress

By Sandra Basu

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

WASHINGTON—In what he said was his “final major address” to the nation’s veterans last month, President Barack Obama defended his administration’s record on veterans’ issues and decried any suggestion that VA should be privatized.

He said that since he has taken office “we’ve made historic increases in veterans funding, the biggest boost in decades.”

            When it comes to the future of veterans’ healthcare, however, he was especially blunt in his assessment.

“We cannot outsource and privatize healthcare for America’s veterans,” the president said. “Now, there are folks who keep pushing this.  They don’t always come out and say the word ‘privatize,’ but you read what they say, that’s what they mean.”

Obama made his comments at the Disabled Veterans of America national convention last month. In defending the need for VA healthcare, he emphasized that “study after study shows that in many areas, like mental health, the quality of care at the VA is often better than in private care.”

“So let’s listen to our veterans, who are telling us, ‘don’t destroy VA healthcare,’” he said.

The Republican and Democrat presidential candidates have also waded into the discussion on VA’s future, with GOP nominee Donald Trump slamming the Obama administration for its handling of veterans’ healthcare.

“Our most basic commitment to provide health and medical care to those who fought for us has been violated completely,” Trump told veterans at the annual Veterans of Foreign Wars convention.

According to campaign materials, Trump supports opening up community care to all veterans, so that anyone eligible for VA healthcare would be able to bring in their ID card to any doctor or care facility that accepts Medicare to get care.

“The power to choose will stop the wait time backlogs and force the VA to improve and compete, if the department wants to keep receiving veterans’ healthcare dollars,” his campaign material stated.

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  1. Laura Sams says:

    Privatization of the VA has already proven to be a mistake. The cost of feeing out services to the community and academic affiliates has already created huge problems. The expense is astronomical, exceeding the cost of VA hiring health care providers to deliver the needed care in the VA. There are no constraints for the private sector and academic physicians on spending; that is, no reason to practice cost effective medicine (in fact, it is in their best interest to OVERSPEND). The infrastructure for administration of the Choice program has been grossly lacking in planning, organization, and hiring of appropriate individuals to manage this complicated system. The result is individuals being sent to incorrect specialists to answer questions that were not the ones intended in the referral, with records and results that are difficult to obtain and to incorporate in VA records, patients receiving bills from private offices due to errors in the handling of the non VA and choice care payment, lack of continuity of patient care, and disgruntled patients returning to individual VA specialists and primary care providers, complaining about these services. The sticker shock on what has already been spent in this ill-conceived, rushed political bandaid is going to hit Washington very hard. To perpetuate or expand it would be irresponsible for patient care, and fiscally disastrous for our country.

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