Don’t privatize the VA

Nurses standing up for veteran health care access

I am a Vietnam veteran who is concerned that the Veterans Affairs Mission Act, recently signed by President Trump, will lead to the destruction of the VA system, the system best suited to care for me and my fellow veterans.

The bill was sold as a way to help veterans get care from non-VA doctors. But in reality, it threatens the very existence of the VA and seems destined to lead to budget cuts for VA services, putting the VA on a path to cannibalize itself — which will hurt veterans and their families.

I was in the Army from 1968 to 1970 and served as a medic with an artillery group in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970. After discharge, I eventually started a career in administration in New York City hospitals — so I know a thing or two about bureaucracy and waste in private healthcare. One day in my office, a person, who identified herself as Canadian, asked me how many people worked there. I said 36. She said that in Canada it would be about six. She pointed out Canada has a single-payer system and everyone has a card that just needs to be swiped, thereby eliminating the need for long information gathering and insurance verification.

In 2006, I decided it was a good idea to join the VA system. Once enrolled, the only identification I needed was my last name and the last four digits of my Social Security number. It was the same no matter which clinic or doctor I used. This kind of efficiency saves money, and makes accessing care easier.

Later I began to use the VA more frequently since I had hearing loss. I was thrilled to get my free hearing aids. Referrals were electronic and quick. The caregivers were friendly and respectful. I started talking to other veterans about their care. The praise was almost unanimous.

Now, the Mission Act is opening doors for conversion to a private care system. The president is going out of his way to gain more control and reduce transparency over how it will be funded and who decides which facilities are closed. No matter how Trump or Congress try to justify it — this Mission Act is a smokescreen for destroying and privatizing the VA.

It is clear Trump listens to those who have pushed VA privatization for years. I will continue to fight to strengthen the VA and its care for veterans. With a strong, well-funded VA, we can serve our vets who served our country.

It is up to us to voice our concerns to our members of Congress and senators.

Frank Toner,
Bellerose Manor