The Continuing Bid to Privatize VA Healthcare
The influence of health care industry interests and ideological groups like the Koch-backed Concerned Veterans for America was on full display last week, when a hearing of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (HVAC) considered legislation to deal with the vexing problem of veteran suicide. Before, during, and after the hearing, Republicans launched a series of attacks on the integrity of the committee’s Democratic Chairman Mark Takano of California, who has dared to question a Trump administration bill that would further outsource veteran care to the private sector.
The bill, deceptively titled the Improve Well-Being for Veterans Act, would, in the name of reducing veteran suicide, fund millions in grants to a plethora of private-sector providers outside the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) networks. These providers would be tasked with conducting outreach; helping with social support and delivering outpatient mental health treatment; and potentially other types of medical care, to the highest-risk veterans.
While not a massive privatization measure like the VA Mission Act, the Improve Act is arguably more dangerous, as it begins paying for health care services for veterans and their families in the private sector, without pre-authorization or oversight by the VHA.