Save Our VA – nwLaborPress

Save Our VA – nwLaborPress

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Public sector employees face many privatization threats. However one of many greatest labor-

administration fights over out-sourcing is now occurring, nationwide, on the largest public healthcare system in america.

Run by the Division of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Veterans Well being Administration (VHA) serves 9 million veterans in 1,300 hospitals and clinics across the nation. Its sufferers embrace former troopers who’re low-income, who’ve service-related medical circumstances, or who lately returned from fight zones.

Greater than 300,000 VA employees members are represented by the American Federation of Authorities Staff (AFGE), Nationwide Nurses United (NNU), the Machinists-affiliated Nationwide Federal of Federal Staff, or the Service Staff Worldwide Union (SEIU). This makes their employer some of the closely unionized healthcare techniques within the nation.

As we doc in a brand new guide, these federal employees present specialised remedy that is much better coordinated and more economical than care within the personal healthcare business. The VA conducts medical analysis that advantages all Individuals and in addition performs a significant “educating hospital” position in coaching hundreds of recent medical doctors, nurses, and different healthcare professionals.

All VA care-givers are salaried, reasonably than being paid on a “price for service” foundation. VA medical facilities don’t spend billions of {dollars} on promoting, advertising, or government compensation like for-profit hospital chains do. And vets who qualify for VA care don’t should take care of the mountains of paperwork—and financially burdensome out-of-pocket funds—required by most personal insurers and even Medicare.

The privatization menace

5 years in the past, conservative Republicans and company Democrats in Congress took a sledgehammer to this mannequin healthcare system after they handed the VA MISSION Act of 2018. As applied by Donald Trump—and, sadly, by Joe Biden as properly—this laws has siphoned billions of {dollars} away from the company’s direct care funds and steered that cash towards personal medical doctors and for-profit hospitals usually much less properly ready to deal with veterans.

The VA has been partially transformed right into a Medicare-style payer of payments submitted by exterior distributors. The highly effective personal pursuits which gained this new $33 billion a yr federal income stream need to protect and broaden it. They embrace a few of the similar for-profit corporations attempting to undermine conventional Medicare protection by steering nearly half of all seniors into Medicare Benefit plans.

The opposed impression of expensive and pointless outsourcing of veterans care has been documented most lately by the Veterans Healthcare Coverage Institute, primarily based on a nationwide survey of AFGE members. In a report known as Disadvantaging the VA, Oregon veterans like Keegan Miller and Henri Henrickson describe their optimistic expertise with the VA as sufferers. And native union activists like AFGE Native 2157 vice-president David Bump name for reversal of a number of Trump period insurance policies and practices that make serving veterans tougher.

About one-third of the VA workforce consists of former service members, which fosters a novel tradition of solidarity between sufferers and suppliers that exists nowhere else in U.S. healthcare. VA union members, their sufferers and households, and veterans organizations got here collectively final Spring to defeat an ill-advised White Home plan to downsize many VA amenities, significantly in already underserved rural areas.

Regardless of that necessary political victory, piecemeal privatization of veterans’ healthcare continues, making on-going community-labor organizing to “Save Our VA” extra necessary than ever, in Oregon and different states.

Steve Early and Suzanne Gordon are co-authors of a brand new guide known as Our Veterans: Winners, Losers, Buddies and Enemies on the New Terrain of Veterans Affairs from Duke College Press. Early is a longtime labor journalist, and Gordon is co-founder of the Bay Space-based Veterans Healthcare Coverage Institute. They are often reached at [email protected]

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