“The Koch brothers and many of their allies do precisely want to privatize the VA. That’s what they want to do. I believe, along with the American Legion, the VFW, the DAV, the Vietnam Vets and virtually all of the veterans’ organizations, that that is a pretty bad idea because veterans have their own special health care needs based on their service to this country. I will fight to protect and preserve the Veterans Administration.”
–Bernie Sanders, MSNBC/Telemundo Democratic town hall in Las Vegas, Feb. 18, 2016
Sanders repeated a Three Pinocchio claim about the Koch brothers’ plan to “privatize” the Department of Veterans Affairs in his answer to an audience question. The questioner had asked Sanders about his defense of the VA after the 2014 scandal over wait-time data manipulation: “At the time, you went so far as to call it manufactured scandal by the Koch brothers to promote the privatization of government healthcare. We need someone who would fix the issue, not ascribe blame.”
The Koch-backed group is Concerned Veterans for America, or CVA, one of the most vocal critics of the VA since wait-time allegations first surfaced (and were later confirmed by the VA Inspector General). In 2015, CVA commissioned a bipartisan task force that proposed drastic changes to the VA.
The crux of the proposal is to split up the current Veterans Health Administration’s payor and provider responsibilities by creating two new entities, one for health insurance and another for health delivery. The proposal would give veterans the choice to receive subsidized private care and would create a new, nonprofit government corporation to oversee the VA’s medical facilities.
The proposal to create the independent entity is what politicians often call “privatization,” which usually refers to a complete outsourcing of government services to a private industry. But the new corporation would be modeled after Amtrak, which is not a private entity. It would receive congressional appropriations, be run by a board appointed by Congress and be subject to congressional oversight.
There are elements in the plan that open up veteran health care to the private market. But when people — especially politicians — talk about “privatization,” they usually refer to the wholesale outsourcing of government services to the private industry. That does not accurately describe CVA’s proposal.
The Fact Checker Recidivism Watch tracks politicians who repeat claims that we have previously found to be incorrect or false. These posts are short summaries of previous findings, with links to the original fact-check. We welcome reader suggestions.
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