Union members urged to protest veterans’ health care cuts

JOHN COCHRAN VA Medical Center in St. Louis. – Military Times photo

Jefferson City – Jake Hummel, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, and Merri Berry, secretary-treasurer of the state federation, are urging union members to stand with members of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) against proposed cuts to the Veterans’ Administration (VA) designed to promote privatization of the VA.

“America owes a debt to our veterans,” Hummel and Berry wrote in an email to union members. “The union members from AFGE help staff our Veterans’ hospitals and provide healthcare to those who served our country.

“But politicians in Washington D.C. are working to CUT services veterans depend on — the same politicians who claim to support our veterans with hollow Happy Veterans’ Day social media posts and email blasts.

“Americans have long supported the VA. The VA treats so many generations of veterans, ranging from physical injuries to mental post-traumatic stress disorder injuries from decades-long conflicts,” they wrote. This proposal “would slash healthcare options and services to our country’s bravest citizens. Some of these proposed cuts would hurt healthcare access for veterans here in Missouri.”

PROPOSED CUTS

On March 14, VA Secretary Denis McDonough issued recommendations for review by the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission, a board created by the 2018 VA MISSION Act, a bill designed to promote vast privatization of VA healthcare. If approved, Sec. McDonough’s recommendations would:

  • Close large segments of the VA health care system, including at least 17 integrated VA medical centers around the country
  • Destroy tens of thousands of union jobs in communities across the country
  • Deny veterans their preferred choice in health care providers
  • Force our nation’s heroes to find their own care from a patchwork of for-profit providers.

The legislation dictates the closure of dozens of VA medical centers, clinics, treatment centers and nursing homes and drastically cut outpatient and inpatient services at hundreds of additional locations. 

WHAT’S HAPPENED ALREADY

  1. Over one-third of all veterans’ medical visits have already been sent outside of the VA system
  2. More than 25 percent of VA healthcare dollars have already been diverted to the private, for-profit sector as a result of the VA MISSION Act.
  3. One-third of the union jobs at the VA that the AIR commission would destroy are held by veterans themselves.

If the closure recommendations take effect, millions of veterans needing surgery, intensive care, emergency care, substance abuse treatment, skilled nursing home care and inpatient mental health care will be forced to rely on private, for-profit hospitals that have little to no specialized experience in meeting the unique needs of America’s veterans.

HOW YOU CAN HELP
“We need you to help stop these ridiculous and dangerous cuts to veterans’ healthcare,” Hummel and Berry wrote, urging members to sign a petition at actionnetwork.org/petitions/petition-to-savemyva-from-air-commission-closures.

“Help us fight back with AFGE against ANY cuts to the healthcare of our veterans.”


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