May 25, 2015

If there's one thing you can say for these people, it's that they're persistent. The Koch brothers and their allies are never going to give up until they see the Veterans Administration done away with and turned over to the private sector. As Karoli discussed here last year, one of their favorite shills, director of Concerned Veterans for America Pete Hegseth, was attacking Bernie Sanders over his proposals to reform the VA.

The bill was finally signed into law last August, and while it did contain provisions to allow veterans to seek care outside of the VA, of course that didn't go far enough to suit Hegseth, who was back attacking the law and continuing to push for privatizing the VA on this Monday's Fox & Friends.

HEGSETH: There's been tiny bits of progress here and there, but I've felt like a broken record over the last year, saying many of the same things. This is still a dysfunctional broken culture. You can't steer a ship of 340,000 employees and $160 billion. That bureaucracy doesn't move quickly. And unfortunately zero people, not one... some say one, but by our account, zero people have been held accountable or fired for the scandal that occurred a year ago.

Wait times are no better today than they were a year ago. Veterans have a choice card but they're not allowed to use it unless they call a gatekeeper at the VA. So there is no real accountability, there is no culture change and without that culture change you're not going to see an environment of customer service that veterans deserve.

By "culture change" of course he means privatizing. Here's more on his group and their proposals to "reform" the VA from Stars and Stripes: Conservative veterans group proposes privatized health care:

A conservative veterans group is testing its clout with a radical plan unveiled Thursday to largely privatize VA health care.

Concerned Veterans for America is calling for the Veterans Health Administration — the wing of the VA that oversees health care — to be turned into an “independent, government-chartered nonprofit corporation.”

After decrying “inefficiency, bureaucracy and deadly wait lists” at the VA, Concerned Veterans for America CEO Pete Hegseth acknowledged the uphill battle he has faced in getting support for the plan, which has no congressional sponsors.

“What we’re proposing is going to take a heck of a lot of courage,” he said.

The plan was swiftly rejected by the VA.

“There is an important role for outside care in the Veteran health model to supplement VA’s own care, but that role should not diminish or obscure the importance of VA’s health care system,” VA Secretary Bob McDonald said in a statement. “Reforming VA health care cannot be achieved by dismantling it and preventing Veterans from receiving the specialized care and services that can only be provided by VA.”

Most veterans service organizations skipped the event and have generally been cool to privatization plans.

“The protections veterans now have in the VA system, particularly when health care goes awry, do not exist in the private sector,” Paralyzed Veterans of America deputy executive director Sherman Gillums Jr. said in a statement. “Privatizing health care for veterans will create a cottage industry for ambulance chasers who will be the only available option for veterans with medical malpractices cases.”

The plan, called the Veterans Independence Act, is the result of a six-month effort launched last fall by a health-care task force led by former Republican Senate majority leader and physician Bill Frist and former Democratic congressman Jim Marshall, a Vietnam veteran and former Army Ranger.

Concerned Veterans for America is led by Hegseth, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and former Republican candidate for Senate in Minnesota. It’s also funded by the politically conservative Koch brothers, though it bills itself as a nonpartisan group. Hegseth has seen his organization gain prominence since Republicans took back the Senate, as was reflected in the speaker’s list at Thursday’s launch in Washington.

The launch was billed as a bipartisan event, but it only attracted two Democrats, including Marshall. Prominent Republicans included 2016 presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; House Republican majority leader Kevin McCarthy; and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the outspoken chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, also spoke.

“The department of Veterans Affairs is simply buckling under the weight of its own bureaucracy,” Rubio said in a speech at the launch event.

McCain, who was heckled by an audience member who questioned why he didn’t do more to improve the embattled Phoenix VA, said veterans need more choice in how they get health care.

“Just throwing money at it is not the answer; fundamental reform is needed,” he said.

Hegseth said his group invited McDonald, whom CVA has routinelycriticized, and he declined. They also reached out to other veterans service organizations. In a sign of the early response the report is receiving, almost none attended.

“Some declined, some couldn’t be here,” he said.

Stewart Hickey, national executive director of AMVETS, acknowledged that persuading veterans organizations to support the plan will be tough.

“I don’t think at the top they really want to see reform,” he said. “I think they’re happy to do the Washington thing of tinker around the edges.”

Much of the plan relies on increasing the ability of veterans to use private hospitals, while tacking on co-pays and deductibles for that choice. A CVA survey showed that veterans want more choice, though the launch comes as the VA says far fewer veterans than expected have participated in a limited plan to allow VA patients more flexibility to use private care. Read on...

Never mind that the VA and other veterans groups don't support their proposals, Fox "news" is always more than happy to give the likes of Hegseth some air time to help the Koch brothers out.

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