Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie is dead set to implement the biggest VA privatization plan ever by June 6, despite concerns that the Trump administration’s implementation plan could tremendously reduce access to veterans’ care. The Trump administration’s rushed push towards privatization coincides with an unprecedented increase in lobbying from special interest groups. The Trump administration need to stop putting special interest over our nation’s veterans.
The VA’s plan for implementing the VA Mission Act puts convenience over quality of care and transfers much needed funds for the VA to the private sector.
Military Times: “But critics are unhappy with more than just the rules as written. They say that Trump’s team is working to undermine VA health care as a viable enterprise, by promoting outside care as a better solution for veterans’ medical needs. Groups such as Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans has voiced concerns that the messaging of the changes emphasizes convenience of care over quality. Outside doctors, they note, don’t necessarily have experience diagnosing post-traumatic stress disorder or burn pit illnesses. They’d rather see efforts put into improving VA access options.”
Congress has called on the VA to halt implementation of the new program over IT issues that could leave many veterans unable to access medical care.
Stars & Stripes: “House lawmakers suggested Tuesday that Department of Veterans Affairs officials postpone a major expansion of veterans’ access to private-sector doctors, following warnings that its information technology system is flawed and could disrupt patient care… The U.S. Digital Service – a White House team of software developers that helps federal agencies improve their technology – recommended last month that the VA stop developing its IT system for the new program, which it described as flawed, with the potential to create confusion and disruption for veterans and VA doctors.”
Trump’s VA pushed for an accelerated privatization process at the urging of a Koch Brothers-backed group while cutting major veterans organizations out of rulemaking process.
Politico: “The VA’s then secretary, David Shulkin, was at the previously undisclosed meeting, along with a contingent of conservative thinkers on veterans policy, including current and former members of Concerned Veterans for America, known as CVA, an advocacy network largely backed by conservative donors Charles and David Koch. Also present were ‘Fox & Friends’ host Pete Hegseth, a former CVA executive repeatedly floated to be Trump’s pick for VA secretary, and David Urban, a right-leaning CNN commentator who served as a senior adviser on the Trump campaign. According to emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the group drafted a strategy to ‘echo/amplify’ Trump’s ‘priorities/initiative’ for accelerating the privatization process. According to three people who were there, the participants discussed how best to respond to expected resistance from traditional veterans advocates, who historically have opposed privatizing key agency services. Representatives from ‘the Big Six’ major veterans organizations, including the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, were not invited.”
The Hill: “Critics have expressed concern that expanding private health care could drain resources from improving the VA system itself, undermining the system and ultimately leading to full privatization. Some veterans groups and lawmakers have also said the VA did not consult them during the process of drafting the new rules.”
Veterans groups criticized Trump’s VA budget proposal for failing to include sufficient funding for implementing the VA Mission Act.
Stars & Stripes: “Three large veterans organizations criticized President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2020 budget proposal for the Department of Veterans Affairs, arguing the historically high amount still falls short of meeting veterans’ needs… Specifically, they argued there’s not enough to implement the VA Mission Act, major reform legislation Congress approved last year. The new law aims to expand veterans’ access to private doctors and extend benefits to more veteran caregivers.”
Wilkie’s rushed push towards privatization coincides with unprecedented lobbying from special interests looking to profit from privatization efforts.
Politico: “An analysis by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting of publicly available federal lobbying reports found that 20 years ago, fewer than two dozen corporate interests lobbied the agency. … In 2018, the year after Trump took office and [former House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff] Miller entered the lobbying force, it was 230. Reveal’s lobbying analysis found Miller has facilitated a gravy train of government largesse to his clients—a list that includes a disgraced hedge fund magnate pushing unproven treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder and a trade group for proton beam therapy, an expensive radiation application.”