Regular readers at the Washington Monthly know that this publication has been the leading voice lately in pushing back against attempts by Republicans, the Koch brothers and private health care interests to spread falsehoods in an attempt to privatize the health care services provided by the Veterans Administration. Our efforts were initiated by an investigative article in the current issue of the magazine by Alicia Mundy titled: The VA Isn’t Broken, Yet. She pointed out how this topic is playing out in the Republican presidential primary.
Over the last year, every major GOP candidate with the exception of Donald Trump has made a pilgrimage to gatherings put on by Concerned Veterans for America (CVA), a group that had barely formed during the 2012 primary cycle. Whereas candidates back in the day were under pressure from the old-line veterans’ groups to promise undying support for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and its nationwide network of hospitals and clinics, the opposite has been true this season. Candidates at CVA rallies have been competing with each other to badmouth the VA and its allegedly shabby treatment of veterans. And all have pledged fealty to the CVA’s goal of moving as many vets as possible out of the VA into private care. Even Trump is calling for more “choice.”
A few journalists, like our friend Steve Benen, have picked up on the story. But too many Americans are still unaware of the fact that this vital organization is under attack by conservatives.
That is why it was encouraging to see that Public Policy Polling included a question about VA privatization in their current survey of voters in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Even more encouraging were the results: a broad majority of the public is against these efforts…including Republicans. In Connecticut, 64% (55% of Republicans) are against privatization. In Pennsylvania, 65% (57% of Republicans) are opposed. And in Rhode Island, 73% (57%) are against the idea.
The special interests are attempting to keep this discussion behind closed doors where they are more confident that they can pull the levers of power in their favor. It is up to us to make sure that those attempts see the light of day so that the people can have their say.