This post originally appeared at AFGE.
Some elected officials and organizations, including the misleadingly named Koch brothers-funded front group Concerned Veterans for America, have bashed the Department of Veterans Affairs at every opportunity. The problem with these people is their ultimate goal is not to improve the VA but to get rid of it. How can you improve care for the returning warriors when you repeatedly refuse to fully fund the VA and instead seek to sell it to private, for-profit businesses?
That point was raised again at a Veterans Service Organization roundtable held by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) on Oct. 27. The event was attended by a dozen members of Congress, AFGE and approximately 30 veterans groups.
Will Fischer from the AFL-CIO’s Union Veterans Council (UVC), of which AFGE is a member and AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. is chairman, echoed what AFGE has been saying all along: that dangerous rhetoric is being promoted by people who don’t want the VA to survive the next 25 years. He reminded the group that private care should supplement, not replace, the care that veterans receive from the world-class VA, whose customer satisfaction ratings are as good as or better than private-sector hospitals. Appropriate funding is also needed for infrastructure and other assets, including doctors and nurses, to allow VA to properly serve veterans and build a rock-solid foundation for its next 25 years.
The roundtable is held regularly, but this was the first time UVC was invited. As UVC represents people who build VA facilities, work in VA facilities and are treated at VA facilities, its participation is crucial.
Besides a commitment to a strong VA, Congress needs to provide support for the very people who take care of our veterans. The Legionnaires’ disease outbreak cover-up, doctor shortages and secret waitlists were brought to light by VA workers, including AFGE members, who blew the whistle on these harmful practices.
Employees need to feel safe reporting wrongdoing, waste, fraud and abuse in the system. Yet Congress is working against that aim by trying to take away workplace whistleblower protections in order to weed out a few bad apples. Legislation such as S. 1082, sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), is merely an attempt to exploit the VA crisis and Walmartize the VA and eventually the entire federal government.