Don't worry, the VA says it isn't being privatized

Matt Saintsing
April 06, 2018 - 1:45 pm

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President Donald Trump’s decision to remove David Shulkin as the secretary of Veterans Affairs stoked fears that the White House would rapidly privatize the VA’s health care system.

Not so, says the VA.

"There is no effort underway to privatize VA, and to suggest otherwise is completely false and a red herring designed to distract and avoid honest debate on the real issues surrounding Veterans' health care," the VA said in a statement Thursday.

Leading veterans organizations including AMVETS and the American Legion, are opposed to straight up privatization as it would most likely entail dismantling the VA, while other groups like Concerned Veterans for America are pushing for more choice in veterans’ care

The statement comes just one week after Shulkin penned an op-ed in the New York Times blasting some White House appointees who, he says, seek to undo the agency. He has since spoken to a myriad of news organizations echoing what he wrote in the Times.

The VA pushed back on that notion Thursday when it said that their budget has ballooned from around $42 billion in 1998 to a whopping $189 billion this year.

The Veterans Choice program, which allows veterans to receive care in the private-sector, is very popular especially for vets in more rural areas. Some vets groups are against unrestricted access to Choice as they fear it would eventually lead to complete privatization of veteran health care.

But according to the VA, the department seeks to be the arbiter in deciding which veterans can receive health care in their own communities.

Last month, Shulkin warned lawmakers that the accounts for Choice could be depleted as early as June if Congress doesn’t act.

“It is not ideal as, you know, all of our goals, is to make sure that veterans were getting the care they want,” Shulkin said while testifying on Capitol Hill March 16. “So we prefer that we find the funding mechanism for Choice to get us through the rest of the fiscal year.”

As of mid-March, there was about $1.1 billion left in Choice’s coffers, spending about $370 million each month.