“Right to Heal” Coalition of Veterans and VA Workers Issues Statement After President Trump Fired Secretary of the VA David Shulkin and Replaced Him with Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson

Veterans Groups and Advocates Sound the Alarm and Demand that Rear Adm. Jackson State Publicly that the Trump Administration Will Not Seek to Privatize the VA and Work to Dismantle Healthcare for Veterans and Families

Save_the_VA_graphicFor Immediate Release

Contact: Aaron Hughes, aarhughes@gmail.com, Right to Heal

Scott Vogel, scott.vogel@seiuhcil.org

(March 30, 2018, Chicago) – President Donald Trump just fired VA Secretary David Shulkin and replaced him with Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson as head of the VA.

This move is worrisome for advocates working to protect healthcare for veterans. The Right to Heal coalition call upon Admiral Jackson to state publicly and forcefully that veterans’ healthcare and vital services will not be privatized, cut, or that parts of the VA be dismantled. Veterans’ healthcare is not a profit margin.

Of major concern is that Adm. Jackson appears to have zero management or leadership experience running a complex agency like the VA. The agency has a $200 billion budget that cares for over 9 million veterans, and tasked with running 170 medical centers and 1,061 outpatient clinics.

In response, the Right to Heal coalition, SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana, About Face: VAW, and AFGE 789 issues the following joint statement:

“The Trump Administration, VA Administration, and Congress must expand access to the VA Healthcare and insure the VA Healthcare is fully staffed, absolutely not privatize the VA so that medical institutions and pharmaceuticals industry can profit off our care and the care of our fellow veterans.

“President Trump’s abrupt dismissal of Secretary Shulkin demonstrates how little the President cares for veterans’ healthcare and services. President Trump’s choice of Rear Adm. Jackson, essentially Trump’s personal doctor who gave him a clean bill of health, to lead one of the largest organizations in the country and whose sacred duty is to provide care for our nation’s veterans is utterly cynical. This decision makes a mockery of the vital role that VA plays in the lives of our fellow veterans.

“Right now, there are urgent issues and crises in the VA that demand focus and attention. “There are over 49,000 job vacancies nationwide across the VA but the President has effectively done nothing to show leadership or demand fully and safe staffing ratios this critical agency that cares for our nation’s veterans.

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SEIU Healthcare Illinois President Greg Kelley speaks outside Jesse Brown VA against the estimated 49,000 job vacancies in the VA, September 2017.

“This agenda to short-staff the VA is an attempt to justify privatizing veterans’ healthcare and turn the system over to private health insurers and profit-driven hospitals who don’t understand nor can effectively provide the specialized care and services that veterans require.

Additionally, many veterans still do not have access to the VA because of their disability rating or discharge status.

“We agree with Secretary Shulkin’s op-ed in the New York Times after he was fired that: ‘Privatization is a political issue aimed at rewarding select people and companies with profits, even if it undermines care for veterans.’

“The truth is that the VA is the model for what healthcare should look like in this country. The VA is a single payer healthcare model that works and works well. Despite constant attacks by those that want to privatize the VA, and persistently underfunded by Congress, the VA has done as well or out-performed the private sector with less money.

“In a 2016 report from the Congress created Commission on Care found that veterans who are treated at VHA receive coordinated care, whereas those with private plans receive care that is ‘lower quality, threatens patient safety, and shifts cost among payers.’ (1)

”The VA provides quality and specialized healthcare to millions of veterans and their families which means families don’t have to go bankrupt to afford essential healthcare.  It is because the VA is a true not-for-profit healthcare system that conservatives and corporate opportunists, like the Koch Brothers, continue to attack it. This system works for the benefit of veterans and families without generating massive corporate profits.

“With this new shakeup, our Right to Heal VA Campaign demands that Rear Adm. Jackson and President Trump state unequivocally that the Administration will not pursue an agenda to privatize the VA in anyway shape or form. It is essential that President Trump and his administration keeps its word and honors the service of our fellow veterans by protecting the VA.”

1. Gorden, Suzanne. The Battle for Veterans’ Healthcare. Cornell Publishing, 2017. pg56.
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