IS THE VA BEING PRIVATIZED? THIS KOCH-BACKED GROUP SAYS IT JUST WANTS ‘CHOICE’ BUT VETERANS AREN’T SO SURE
When former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin left the agency last week, he penned a New York Times op-ed that said he was removed from his position because he opposed privatizing the nearly $200 billion agency. The White House denied it was considering privatizing the VA, but questions about privatizing the agency have dogged President Donald Trump since the campaign trail, and it is sure to be a critical issue during the confirmation hearings for new VA secretary nominee Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, the White House physician.
Many Democrats and veterans’ groups say privatization is a real threat to the VA, perhaps the best example of a fully socialized, single-payer healthcare system in the U.S. The system enjoys widespread support and popularity with major veterans groups, who worry turning too much VA funding over to private healthcare providers will drain the VA of the critical mass of funding that allows it deliver what they argue is excellent care. But one veterans’ group is pushing what others say is an extreme commitment to what it describes as “choice” in veterans healthcare, which major groups say is a desire to see the department privatized.
That group is Concerned Veterans For America (CVA), which, despite being one of the newest, seems to have the Trump administration’s ear. A member of the vast advocacy network run by libertarian megadonors Charles and David Koch, CVA stands virtually alone among veterans’ groups in its commitment to vastly expanded private options for veterans.
“The real outlier is CVA,” Will Fischer, director of government relations for progressive veterans’ group VoteVets, told Newsweek. “There is an ideological bit to this. This is a fight that involves how we view the role of government.”
CVA denies that it wants privatization. Instead, the group says it simply wants veterans to have a choice about their healthcare, and more opportunities to spend their benefits in the private sector. “There’s this narrative that’s developed that there are evil forces in the Trump administration looking to dismantle the system and put every veteran on a voucher,” CVA executive director Dan Caldwell told Newsweek. “The narrative around privatization is false.”