House Committee Approves VA Privatization Bill; floor vote today

EDITOR'S NOTE: We received this message from Kay Tillow of Kentuckians for Single Payer Health Care
"Augusta Thomas of AFGE sent an urgent message to the Greater Louisville Central Labor Council meeting last night. The House will vote today to permanently privatize VA care for our veterans. We need your help to stop it. Augusta urges us to CALL our lawmakers NOW at 833-480-1637 and tell them to vote NO on the VA Mission Act, S. 2372. Tell them that every dollar spent on privatized care deprives our veterans of the specialized care offered in our VA." Based in Washington, Thomas is from Louisville and is AFGE's national vice president for women and fair practices. She can be reached via email at [email protected]  
 
The House Veterans Affairs Committee May 8 passed a bill that would pave the way for a wholesale privatization of the VA.  

H.R. 5476 passed the House VA Committee by a 20-2 margin, with Ranking Member Tim Walz and Vice Ranking Member Mark Takano voting against the measure. It will now go to the House Rules Committee and on to the House Floor for consideration.  

AFGE opposes the bill because it would: 

  • Give a VA Secretary the authority to privatize and dismantle broad swaths of the VA health care system through a permanent private sector health care program. 
  • Devastate veterans’ communities by closing vibrant VA medical centers that have become their communities, not just hospitals.  
  • Lead to deterioration of VA facilities and in-house skills as resources are moved to private sector program.  

AFGE sent a letter to the committee prior to the markup voicing our opposition. We submitted seven recommendations, including holding private providers to the same standards for patient care as VA’s in-house providers, but they were rejected. The committee, however, agreed to require the VA to be more transparent about the number of unfilled positions. 

“It is imperative that we not starve the VA for resources and kowtow to the Koch Brothers scheme to dismantle the crown jewel of the American health care system,” AFGE said in the May 7 letter.