US military soldiers march during the Veterans Day Parade in New York on Nov. 11, 2014.
Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty

Trump’s efforts to privatize veterans’ care causes alarm

The Rachel Maddow Show, 11/20/17, 9:52 PM ET

Trump moving stealthily to privatize the VA, alarming vets groups

Rachel Maddow relays reports that the Donald Trump White House is looking at the possibility of merging the VA with the private health care system used by the Pentagon.
As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump was quite candid about his support for privatizing at least some areas of veterans’ care, explicitly endorsing the idea, more than once. After the election, during his presidential transition, the Republican recommitted to his privatization agenda.

There was some question, however, about whether the administration would follow through, especially after David Shulkin, Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, told senators during his confirmation hearings that the VA “will not be privatized under my watch.”

As Rachel noted on the show this week, all of this came to mind when the Associated Press reported that the VA is exploring “the possibility of merging its health system with the Pentagon’s.” And while that may not sound like a major development, the fear is that existing VA hospitals and clinics will be in jeopardy if/when the VA system is merged with a private system.

News of the plan stirred alarm from veterans groups, who said they had not been consulted, and sharp criticism from congressional Democrats who pledged to oppose any VA privatization effort that forces veterans “to pay out of pocket for the benefits they have earned with their heroism.” […]

“Today, we see evidence that the Trump administration is quietly planning to dismantle veterans’ health care,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “House Democrats will fight tooth and nail against any efforts to diminish or destroy VA’s irreplaceable role as the chief coordinator, advocate and manager of care for veterans.”

This coincided with a Wall Street Journal report that said the Trump administration is eyeing “a larger role” for private-sector providers in veterans’ health care – which reinforces privatization fears.

It also follows a New York Times report from two weeks ago, noting the efforts of an advocacy group backed by the Koch brothers, which is pushing for conservative changes, despite the position of groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion “that have long guarded the Veterans Affairs system that they helped build.”

The fact that these established veterans organizations are being kept in the dark about the Trump administration’s plans says quite a bit about the merits of the agenda.

Longtime readers may recall that Mitt Romney, almost exactly six years ago, briefly flirted with the idea of introducing “some private sector competition” into veterans’ care as part of his 2012 presidential campaign. The nation’s leading veterans’ organizations pounced, making their displeasure clear, and Romney quickly retreated, never to return to the subject again.

Six years later, Trump World is taking a far more aggressive posture, whether the major veterans’ organizations like it or not.

Koch Brothers, Veteran's Issues and Veterans

Trump's efforts to privatize veterans' care causes alarm