In response to reports that President-elect Donald Trump is considering privatizing the Department of Veterans Affairs, Sen. Bernie Sanders recently issued a statement condemning the idea while vowing to protect and work towards improving the VA health care system instead of dismantling it. As a former chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Sen. Sanders believes that privatization will detrimentally lower the quality of health care provided to veterans.
“Privatizing the VA would be an insult to the more than 22 million veterans who risked their lives to defend our country and it would significantly lower the quality of health care they receive,” Sanders wrote in a statement on Friday. “Our goal, shared by The American Legion and other major veterans’ organizations, must be to improve the VA, not destroy it. When men and women put their lives on the line to defend us, the president must listen to them, not to the Koch brothers and their extreme right-wing, anti-government ideology. We will vigorously oppose any and all efforts to privatize the VA.”
Last month, The Washington Post reported that Trump is considering hiring members of Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) to run the VA. While lobbying to privatize the Department of Veterans Affairs, CVA is heavily funded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch.
“The president-elect should listen to American Legion Executive Director Verna Jones, who recently said the nation’s largest veterans’ organization ‘would like the Trump administration to know that we value our Department of Veterans Affairs’ because ‘dollar-for-dollar, there is no better care or value available anywhere in the United States – period,’” Sanders continued.
“It’s a slap in the face to what we stand for,” Jones told Trump’s transition team last month while discussing privatization.
“The president-elect should listen to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW),” Sanders elaborated. “‘Politicians, pundits and politically-motivated organizations are using the national crisis in access to care at the Department of Veterans Affairs as justification to dismantle and privatize the VA health care system, with some even proposing that veterans be charged for their service-connected care. The VFW says no! Veterans must not stand idle as politicians who never served or use the VA health care system dictate when and where veterans can receive care.’
“The president-elect should listen to Paul Rieckhoff of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America who said, ‘The worst case scenario within the vets community is a total dismantling of everything they worked generations to create. There is a growing fear it is all going to get burned down.’
“The veterans’ organizations are right,” Sanders concluded. “We must protect the VA, not destroy it.”
Last month, a member of Trump’s transition team told The Wall Street Journal that the president-elect was considering privatizing the VA despite the fact that several veterans’ groups vigorously oppose the decision. Although the VA has been criticized for providing inadequate health care in recent years, Sanders argues that privatization will merely lead to rising costs that many veterans won’t be able to afford.
On Friday, Sanders took to Twitter and wrote, “When people put their lives on the line to defend us, the president must listen to them, not to the Koch brothers & their extreme ideology.”