Veterans and RNs Demand Congress Protect Veterans’ Health Care
Recently Released Analysis Shows VA Health Care Superior by Many Measures
Veterans and RNs are hosting a town hall in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Feb. 11 to educate the public on the current threats to the VA health care system and to share their concerns about the lack of oversight in the implementation of the MISSION Act. 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 veteran and a nurse who cares for veterans, I am determined to see that the VA is made whole and is fully funded and fully staffed,” said Elaine Sherman, RN and a chief steward with NNOC/NNU. “We are seeing veterans being sent into the private sector without the necessary safeguards to ensure they are getting care that is equal to the superior care available at the VA. It is a travesty, that taxpayers’ dollars are being used to line the pockets of wealthy health care executives instead of being invested into strengthening the VA.”
“When I came back from serving in Iraq, it seemed daunting to go to a civilian doctor, where I would need to explain all that I had gone through,” said Naveed Shah, an Army veteran and member of Common Defense, a veteran-led grass roots organization. “Getting post 9-11 veterans through the door to seek help is one of the biggest obstacles we face and the VA is best suited to do that because of the shared experiences and the understanding of military culture. We must seek to improve the VA as it is the best place for veterans to get care.”
- What: Town Hall Meeting - Veterans and RNs Demand Congress Protect the VA
- When: Tuesday Feb. 11, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
- Where: Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church, 201 4th Street. SE, Washington D.C.
- Elaine Sherman, RN - Army Veteran and Chief Steward, National Nurses United
- Suzanne Gordon - Author of “Wounds of War: How the VA Delivers Health, Healing, and Hope to the Nation’s Veterans”
- Skip Delano - Vietnam Army Veteran, Veterans for Peace & Save Our VA
- Rick Weidman - Co-founder Vietnam Veterans of American
- Naveed Shah - Army Veteran, Common Defense
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.”
Nurses and veterans are calling for:
An end to privatization efforts of veterans’ health care and the associated unpredictable costs.
According to the VA, the MISSION Act could lead to as many as 3.7 million VA eligible patients being sent to the private sector for care. However, eight months after the new MISSION Act rules were implemented, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) does not know how much the private sector care is costing the American taxpayers. 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 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.
Congress and Secretary Wilkie to reject arbitrary rules that push veterans into the privatesector despite lack of oversight of care and wait times.
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. Furthermore, a GAO report released in January indicates that patients referred to the private sector in one VA service network are waiting an average of 56 days before receiving care. VA officials confirm they have no way of assessing wait times in the private sector to determine if patients would be seen more quickly at the VA.