We hear the phrase “support our troops” all of the time. Especially from Republicans and arm-chair patriots. They seem to think that if they repeat that phrase a lot of times, people will actually believe they do support our troops. But, support has nothing to do with words, it has everything to do with actions.
Which brings us to today. The confirmation hearings for Trump’s cabinet nominees begin, except no one has accepted the position to run the Veteran’s Administration. It seems that Trump cannot find anyone to carry out his agenda about the VA.
In case you forgot, during the campaign he said he was in favor of “privatizing” the VA. He even thought it would be a good idea to voucherize it and make it work like the insurance industry. The Wall Street Journal said it best last summer:
Donald Trump Adviser Signals Plan to Change Veterans’ Health Care
GOP front-runner would likely push VA toward privatization, shift to an insurance model.
Since he won the election, he has been looking for what can only be described as a “hatchet person” to undo the VA. The VA does have some problems, especially with wait times. However, if you look at the real picture you will discover that veterans are mostly happy with the service they receive from the VA.
In case you are wondering, VA still enjoys tremendous favorability among veterans who use its services, according to independent surveys. Not only that, but the VA consistently delivers a higher level of care than private hospitals, according to the RAND Corporation. A bi-partisan poll found that a majority of veterans strongly opposes the privatization of the VA.
This opposition includes the VFW and the American Legion. But what would veteran groups know about veteran health care? Obviously, people like the Koch Brothers know a lot more than we veterans.
The idea to dismantle the VA and strangle and eliminate guaranteed care for veterans comes from the Koch Brothers and a group they founded called Concerned Veterans of America.
Here is how the plan would work.
First, much like school vouchers, VA insurance or care vouchers would be useful for those who could supplement them to get the kind of care they need. For those who couldn’t, they’d be left behind in a dreadfully underfunded VA. Meaning they would not get the care they need. Do you really think the awful numbers of veteran suicides would decline if every veteran couldn’t receive the care they need?
Second, it would put veterans in a system with a profit motive, not a care motive. For all the issues facing the VA, the one thing that cannot be said about it is that it looks to cut costs by denying care — something that can not be said about the private care system. Only Congress which holds the purse strings for the VA can cut spending for care.
Third, it would bleed the system dry, forcing mass closures of VA hospitals and care centers. Those centers are specially qualified to handle the needs of veterans that many hospitals and doctors are not qualified to handle — from prosthetics to traumatic brain injuries to exposure to Agent Orange and burning oil fields. I know that Doctors try their best. However, without experience or specialized training it is true that not every neighborhood hospital is able to handle those unique needs. And so, veterans would be left with a voucher and a message of “good luck finding someone who can care for your brain injury,” from Donald Trump.
To illustrate his problems, the Cleveland Clinic’s Toby Cosgrove (Trump’s rumored favorite for the job) told Trump “thanks, but no thanks.” Another top pick, Luis Quinonez turned down the job after meeting with Trump. Thus far, Donald Trump doesn’t seem to have found anyone qualified for the job. Maybe it’s because of what Trump has told his potential nominees what he wants to do to the VA.
I like to think that Mr. Cosgrove and Mr. Quinonez understand what Trump is trying to do to our veterans and are not interested in killing the VA and that is the reason they both turned down the job. But that doesn’t mean the problem is going away anytime soon.
There are a few people eager to kill the VA and would be happy to be the one to do so like Koch-affiliated CVA Founder Pete Hegseth, failed former Senator Scott Brown, and half-term Governor Sarah Palin.
When we enter the service we are given several promises. One of those promises is health care for the rest of our lives. Since we are willing to place our lives on the line to serve our country, that isn’t too steep of a price for the country to pay. But, using the Veterans Administration and its clinics and hospitals take profits away from health care companies. It would appear that Trump and Republicans are more interested in those profits than caring for people who served their country.
Instead of eliminating the best health care for veterans they can get, the administration and Congress must expand its services. Congress should provide it with the funds it needs to hire more doctors and staff, retain good doctors by offering competitive pay, and building more VA centers to deal with the influx of veterans who have entered the system as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And while that is happening, programs like Veterans Choice should remain in place, which temporarily allow veterans who have waited the longest to get full reimbursement for private care.
If you think Trump’s plan is just like Veterans Choice, think again. He is not interested in veterans getting full reimbursement for the private care he wants to unleash on them. He want to follow the normal insurance model of partial coverage and the veteran pays out-of-pocket for the rest. And, with Republicans trying to hard to repeal the Affordable Care Act, most veterans needing this care would fall under the “pre-existing conditions” category. That means their premiums and out-of-pocket expenses would go through the roof.
Today confirmation hearings are beginning for Trump’s cabinet. Yet, the VA is sitting on the sidelines because Trump cannot find a qualified person to act as his hatchet person to kill the agency. As a result no transition to a new team has even started at the VA.
Even before he takes the oath of office, veterans are losing under Donald Trump and his gang of thieves. But don’t worry, I am sure he will find a nice war for us to be maimed, wounded, or killed in. We just shouldn’t expect to be taken care of when we come home.
This is the way Trump and Republicans “support our troops”. With friends like them offering such support, we don’t need anymore enemies.