opinion | Veterans opposed changes in VA health care

The July 1 news article “Bid to Repeat VA Health System Killed” presented a distorted picture of the actions of a bipartisan group of senators who had good reason to drop the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission mandated by the VA Mission Act.

Recommendations by the commission’s Veterans Affairs Secretary called for the closure of 20 medical centers and at least 37 hospitals and emergency rooms, not three VA medical centers, the article reported. The secretary’s plan would have exacerbated the country’s rural health crisis and jeopardized VA’s research and teaching missions, which serve not just veterans but all patients.

That’s why thousands of veterans (who didn’t appear in the article) across the country have mobilized to save a system that consistently provides better quality and cheaper care than its private-sector alternatives.

Suzanne Gordon, Richmond, California

The author is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute.

Veterans across the country celebrated the announcement that a bipartisan Senate coalition is refusing to confirm members of the Veterans Affairs’ Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission. So are VA employees, a third of whom are veterans because they care deeply about the agency’s mission and know how much veterans rely on VA’s unique expertise and integrated healthcare services.

If confirmed, the Commission would have implemented a misguided VA plan to shut down or gut about a third of the nation’s VA hospitals and force millions of veterans into taxpayer-funded private care whether they like it or not – even in areas where it has been contemporary private care is almost impossible to access. VA based the closure plan on outdated pre-pandemic data, which drew criticism from state auditors, and overlooked the billions of dollars already invested in upgrading older VA facilities.

The VA staff we represent continue to provide excellent care. A recent Stanford University study found that elderly veterans are 46 percent less likely to die when treated in VA emergency rooms compared to private hospitals, and that VA care is 21 percent less costly to the taxpayer.

The author is President of the AFGE National VA Council.

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