Jan Schneider supports the major national veterans service organizations in fighting against privatization of the Veterans Health Administration. Our veterans fought for us – and we must fight for them!

The firing by President Trump of Dr. David Shulkin as Secretary of Veterans Affairs brought renewed focus to an already contentious debate about privatization of veterans’ health services. Yes, beginning in 2014, the VHA was the subject of multiple scandals concerning mismanagement, unnecessary deaths and falsification of records. Nevertheless, privatization of the VHA has consistently been opposed by the “Big Six” VSOs – the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, AMVETS, Paralyzed Veterans of American and Vietnam Veterans of America. The issue has pitted them against a group called Concerned Veterans for America, which is funded by conservative billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch.

The struggle is not just about health options. Veterans’ healthcare is “big money,” hundreds of billions of dollars annually. In touting the alleged efficiencies of the private sector, many proponents of privatization want chunks of the cash for themselves. Many opponents counter by pointing to the specialized needs of vets and the particular expertise of the VHA in areas such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, traumatic brain injuries, schizophrenia, major depression, missing limbs, spinal injuries, burns and so forth. Opponents also worry about the added costs of private healthcare being siphoned from disability benefits, education and other crucial VA programs, and they also fear that increased copays and other costs would force vets to choose between healthcare and other necessities.

None of this is to disparage the Veterans Choice Program, pursuant to which vets can receive care from approved community providers paid for by VA. To qualify, a vet must not be able to make an appointment at the nearest VA medical facility within 30 days, must live more than 40 miles driving distance from such facility or must meet certain other specified conditions. Created in response to 2014 scandals, the VCP has undoubtedly been valuable in providing timely care and saving lives. One problem, however, is that the future of Choice Card program funding remains somewhat in doubt.

In sum, Jan will fight for veterans healthcare. VoteJan – For Your Health!