Ever since he became president, Donald Trump has made comments suggesting that he supports the privatization of the medical care offered by the Veterans Administration (VA), and has even shifted billions of dollars in federal money to private care providers.
However, all of the major veterans’ organizations say privatizing the VA is a terrible idea. Rick Weidman, executive director of Vietnam Veterans of America, recently commented:
“We don’t like it. This thing was initially sold as to supplement the V.A., and some people want to try and use it to supplant.”
And now VA Secretary Robert Wilkie is on record as saying he too thinks privatizing medical care for American veterans is not the solution to the problem of wait times and delays facing many vets, telling the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Wednesday that there are numerous problems with such a plan:
“The care in the private sector — nine times out of ten — is probably not as good as the care in the VA.”
As an example, Wilkie noted that a veteran who was seeking to have a medical procedure performed would have to wait an average of 12 days to receive that care from the VA. At a hospital or private facility, the wait time is 78 days. Wilkie said that proves that “things are not always greener on the other side of the hill.”
And then there’s the budget issue, Wilkie added:
“The issue that has been raised many times about privatization is just not borne out by our budget.”
Translation: Congress is not giving the VA enough funding to allow them the luxury of sending patients to private hospitals or medical professionals in the private sector who may charge much more for an office visit or procedure than the VA budget allows. A veteran may need, for example, a chest X-ray, but the VA cannot afford to pay $750 for that X-ray just so it can be performed more quickly.
All of this gets at a much larger issue: The way we care for (or don’t care for) those who serve this country in the military. We ask them to fight our wars, but when they’re done, we try to scrimp and save on their medical care.
It’s good to know Secretary Wilkie doesn’t want to privatize VA care, but the fact that this president does means Wilkie may not get a say in the matter.
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