Veterans groups warn against unlimited choice for health care
WASHINGTON — Speaking to House and Senate veterans’ affairs committees, the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars on Wednesday warned against the Department of Veterans Affairs excessively outsourcing medical treatment to the private sector.
Charles Schmidt, national commander of the American Legion, spoke out against “all-out privatization or any dissolution of the VA system.” VFW National Commander Brian Duffy echoed that message later, saying veterans want to “fix – not dismantle – the VA health care system.”
Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Mich., asked whether American Legion members would rather receive “quality health care or health care from VA.” The phrasing prompted discussion from the crowd of a few hundred veterans.
“The truth is, the two aren’t mutually exclusive,” answered Louis Celli, an American Legion director. “The VA trains some of the finest doctors in the country, and we want to make sure it retains the highest quality physicians. We’ll continue to be a partner with them.”
The comments followed a presentation from VA Secretary David Shulkin on Sunday in which he proposed removing rules from the Veterans Choice program that limit the number of veterans allowed to seek non-VA care.
“The bottom line is, if you open up choice to anyone, and they can go anywhere, it will eventually drain resources from the VA,” Disabled American Veterans Director Garry Augustine said Tuesday. “The VA will eventually wither on the vine.”
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