Press Release

Veterans and RNs Demand Congress Protect Veterans’ Health Care

Nurse holds sign "Nurses and Veterans Stand Together"

Recently Released Report Shows VA Health Care Superior by Many Measures

Veterans and RNs are hosting a town hall on Thursday, Jan. 30 to educate the public on the current threats to the VA health care system and strategize on how best to protect this vital institution for all veterans. Nurses and veterans are calling on Congress to protect the VA from privatization efforts and to fully staff and fund the VA so it can continue to provide the highest quality of care to our nation’s veterans, announced National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU) today.
“As a nurse and the daughter and stepdaughter of retired service members, I know that the VA health care system is a vital asset that we must protect from those who seek to weaken it,” said Sarah Kahlich, RN and steward with NNOC/NNU. “We see how the MISSION Act is moving veterans into the private sector without the necessary safeguards to ensure those veterans are getting care that is equal to the superior care they currently receive at the VA. As veterans are moved into the private sector, much needed funds are drained from the VA coffers, weakening the VA.”

“I believe, as veterans, we have very unique physical and mental health needs that the civilian community does not understand,” said Rusty Brown, American Legion Post Service Officer, Corpsman U.S. Navy (retired). “Our confidence is with the VA and the providers that understand our specific needs. A veteran never feels alone in a VA facility; there’s always a fellow veteran to talk with. We are demanding that Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Robert Wilkie, make strengthening the VA and filling the tens of thousands of VA vacancies top priorities.”
What: Town Hall Meeting — Protect Veterans’ Health Care at the VA
When: Thursday, Jan. 30   6:00–7:30 p.m.
Where: Southside Baptist Church
             388 SE Baya Dr., Lake City, Florida
Speakers include:

Rusty Brown, American Legion Post 57 Service Officer, former Hospital Corpsman U.S. Navy
Jason Williams, RN NNOC/NNU Director/Chief Steward
Sarah Kahlich, RN NNOC/NNU Associate Director/Steward
Coral Williams, RN NNOC/NNU Communication Officer/Steward

At the town hall meeting, a recently released report, Retaining Effective and Sound Programs for Excellent Care and Treatment (RESPECT) for Veterans will be shared with the press and the public. The report is a detailed synthesis of more than 90 primary sources. RESPECT for Veterans lays out the data showing how VA health care is superior to the private sector by many measures, including access, quality, and cost. Furthermore, RESPECT for Veterans found that “the [Veteran Health Administration] performs exceptionally well in suicide prevention and treating post-traumatic disorder and depression experienced by many veterans.”  
The RESPECT for Veterans white paper can be found at this link.
Nurses and veterans are calling for:
Congress to fully fund and Secretary Wilkie to fully staff the VA.

Currently 49,000 positions are vacant throughout the VA system, with nearly 43,000 of those in the health care system. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the VA is struggling with “large staffing shortages, including physicians and registered nurses.” In addition, the GAO found that “high attrition, increased workload, and burnout among [Veterans Health Administration] human resources staff… have impeded the VHA’s ability to serve the nation’s veterans.” Nurses contend the failure of the VA to address these persistent problems and to fill these vacancies is part of an overall strategy to privatize veteran care.
An end to privatization efforts of veterans’ health care.

Nurses recognize that as money is siphoned away from the VA and into the more expensive private health care sector, the VA will continue to be chronically short staffed. This chronic short staffing will eventually erode the system, paving the way for the closure of VA facilities. This, in turn, leads to even more privatization of veterans’ health care.
Congress and Secretary Wilkie to reject arbitrary rules that push veterans into the private sector.

Last June, the VA began sending veterans out of the VA to seek care in the private sector under new MISSION Act rules. Nurses oppose these rules, calling them “arbitrary” as they are based on wait times and driving distances, and they do not demand that private clinicians meet the same exacting standards that VA facilities and clinicians are required to meet, nor do they take into account the quality of care the veterans will receive.