July 1, 2016
By John Quinn, LaborPress USA
Washington, DC – With many opinion polls showing bipartisan majorities of veterans strongly satisfied with VA health service, AFGE members are protest the VA privatization plans.
The VA hospital and health care system, is the largest such system in the world. VA's 160 medical centers and more than 1,000 community-based outpatient clinics serve nine million veterans. In order to improve services, union members have been demanding more doctors be hired to serve the needs of patients. Serving the nation's veterans is "a sacred promise, a promise that will never be violated," said AFGE President J. David Cox, a retired VA psychiatric nurse in its Greensboro, N.C., hospital.
The agency's top health care official, Dr. David Shulkin, said VA now has top priorities to fix the problems the scandal exposed: Reducing wait times and access problems for vets, developing relationships with community providers – especially in rural areas far from a VA hospital or clinic – and "repairing the trust of our patients and the public."
"We have a commitment that by the end of this year, there will be same-day access to medical care and mental health care in every center," Shulkin said.
The anti-worker Koch brothers are calling for dismantling the system by 2025 and giving vets vouchers to use to pay insurers for care. That would throw VA workers whom AFGE represents out of jobs. Some 30 percent are vets.
"Over 89 percent of vets are telling us they're very satisfied with access and with getting appointments," Shulkin said
However, the story of VA's success and rising patient load has not penetrated either the public consciousness or Capitol Hill, continued Shulkin.