VA Hospitals under Siege: We have met the Enemy and Its Name is Koch.
The Koch Brothers have mobilized another attack on an institution they have no business going after. And this time it’s the Veterans Administration healthcare system.
Koch adherents Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Jeff Miller have introduced bills that will not only ruin the progress made in the past year by the VA, but could also completely destroy the only healthcare system specializing in the support of veterans and treating their sometimes unique conditions. In its latest anti-worker move, the Koch Brother stooges are proposing legislation to turn the VA health system into a “right to work” environment. For those of you who don’t understand the term, right to work does not guarantee the right to a job. It guarantees that an employer can fire any employee for any reason at any time.
Currently the VA health system is understaffed by about 40,000 workers. It has approximately 350,000 employees nationwide and the demands on the system are increasing daily as new vets enter the system. Last year, there was an enormous scandal dealing with doctored waiting lists and statistics downplaying the less than stellar support many vets received. In some cases, veterans were forced to wait months for an appointment. Procedures were put in place to cover up the delays and make it look as though the system operating much more efficiently than it actually was.
The people who brought the problems to light were lower level VA employees who thought rigging the system was wrong and that veterans were getting shortchanged. Under the Koch spawned plan, these so-called whistle blowers, who had complained about the inaccuracies to their supervisors, could easily have been fired before their complaints went public. There would be no protection from dismissal by a supervisor for practically any reason. Including being a whistleblower.
Great progress has been made in the year since the scandal broke. The VA hierarchy is no longer a protected management group. Congress gave Robert McDonald, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the ability to fire, with cause, long time bureaucrats in VA management. Many VA senior management officials, who seemed more interested in padding their numbers than actually taking care of vets, are gone. The system has changed to help the organization stick to its original mission which is to serve the veterans who earned the right to receive that support.
There are currently bills in the Senate and House to strengthen accountability within the VA and extend support to potential whistleblowers to encourage that accountability. Representative Mark Takano and Sen. Richard Blumenthal are sponsoring strong bills that encourage the VA to heal itself. The Rubio/Miller movement will only cause further chaos, prevent the accountability and transparency the agency needs, and lead to the eventual collapse of the system.
And of course, that can lead to privatization of the VA health care system, precisely what the Koch brothers want.
One of the most insidious tools the Koch Evil Empire is using is a group called the Concerned Veterans for America (CVA). This self-described veterans’ support group is actually aggressively lobbying to privatize the VA healthcare system. And, in addition to undermining VA workers’ rights, the CVA wants to reduce veterans’ benefits, especially VA health care benefits.
CVA is a 501c non-profit organization that is funded almost completely by the Koch donor network. The group is headed up by Pete Hegseth, a former state treasurer for the Minnesota Republican Party and an international financial analyst on Wall Street. In addition, he was also a Policy Specialist at the conservative think tank Center for the American University and executive director of Iraq Vets for Freedom, a lobby group that is supportive of a strong defense industry. Is he your typical vet looking out for the welfare of his fellow veterans? I think not.
One of CVA’s trustees is Wayne Gable, who formerly held the positions of managing director for public affairs at Koch Industries, president of the Charles G. Koch Foundation, and board member of Freedom Partners, all Koch-backed organizations. Gable’s name has also showed up in connection with other Koch PACs including Americans for Prosperity and Citizens for a Sound Economy.
All of these organizations are part of the Koch democracy destroying network of so-called advisory groups that also include the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network. These two groups are writing Koch-approved state level legislation. These laws are then voted on and approved by Koch friendly politicians. And the laws are designed to benefit Koch based free market philosophies, not middle class America. These Koch Brother backed organizations are trying to turn every aspect of the federal government, including the VA healthcare system, into their own privatized, for profit Utopia.
And for the rest of us? The Koch Corps expects us to just quietly sit around and let their money run the country.
With enough pressure, a society under tyranny – economically, socially, or religiously – will rise up against its oppressors. American colonists did it to the British Empire and its wealthy supporters of a colonial system that had no regard for the commoners, also translated as the middle class. That needs to happen again.
As a Veteran, I will not sit and quietly watch The Koch Brothers’ takeover of the Veterans healthcare system and the rest of America with it. I will continue to raise the alarm about what I see and do whatever I can to stop these rich predators from taking over the country.