Criticism of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ effectiveness in catering to the needs of veterans who have fought to protect the freedoms Americans enjoy today has given rise to continued debate over who should be entrusted with the care of veterans -- the government or the private sector.
The government-run health system that serves veterans has gnerated outrage over reports of veterans dying while waiting for care or as a result of medical errors, and made many wonder whether privatizing the VA is a better solution.
“Some people would say that the VA as an integrated heath care system provides high-quality care to veterans and there is some truth to that statement,” Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies for the Cato Institute told Patient Daily. “It is an integrated health care system and there are benefits that come with (that), but nowhere is it written that the benefits of an integrated health system are only available when the government runs that system.”
Privatizing the VA – not just giving veterans vouchers to buy private care but selling off its assets and giving shares to veterans – would create a private, integrated system dedicated to the needs of veterans, Cannon said.
“So you (would) get all the benefits of the current VA and more because the privatized VA would have to compete,” he said. “And they could also compete to care for others who have similar injuries and thereby improve the quality of private care through greater competition for non-veterans.
The only real drawback to privatization, Cannon said, would be that Congressional committees, government bureaucrats and some veterans groups would lose some of the control and prestige they have that comes from being able to influence veterans benefits.
President-elect Donald Trump said during his campaign that he would consider a plan to partially privatize the VA, and members of his transition team recently reiterated Trump’s stance, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The proposal was met with fierce opposition from stakeholders in the current troubled system.
In a statement posted on his website, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a former chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, said he along with some major veterans organizations “will vigorously oppose any and all efforts to privatize the VA.”
“Privatizing the VA would be an insult to the more than 22 million veterans who risked their lives to defend our country and it would significantly lower the quality of health care they receive,” the statement read. “Our goal, shared by The American Legion and other major veterans’ organizations, must be to improve the VA, not destroy it.”
Cannon disagrees, saying the way veterans benefits are being administered creates more dead and disabled veterans.
“You would think that if Bernie Sanders were anti-war he would say, ‘We need to privatize the VA so that we can have a more sensible and humane foreign policy,’” Cannon said. “And yet, (his is) putting his socialist ideology ahead of the lives of military personnel and ahead of the health of veterans.”
One of the benefits of privatizing the VA is making active duty soldiers safer so there will be fewer injured and disabled veterans in the future.
“Of all the VA’s faults, the absolutely worst part of the VA is that it allows Congress, when it sends troops off to war, to kick the costs of veterans benefits decades into the future instead of wrestling with those costs that they know they are incurring at the moment they send stoops off to war,” Cannon said.
If Trump wants to honor veterans he should privatize the VA by transferring ownership of the VA to veterans, and then make Congress pre-fund veterans benefits so that the federal government weighs the cost of war more carefully, Cannon added.