The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Veterans were opposed to VA health-care changes

(Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)
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The July 1 news article “Bid to redo VA health system killed” presented a distorted view of the action taken by a bipartisan group of senators who had good reasons for ditching the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission mandated by the VA Mission Act.

Recommendations by the Veterans Affairs secretary to the commission called for closures of 20 medical centers and at least 37 hospitals and emergency rooms, not three VA medical centers, as the article reported. The secretary’s plan would have exacerbated the nation’s rural health-care crisis and jeopardized VA’s research and teaching missions that serve not only veterans but all patients.

That’s why thousands of veterans (who made no appearance in the article) mobilized around the country to save a system that consistently delivers care that is of higher quality and more cost effective than its private-sector alternatives.

Suzanne Gordon, Richmond, Calif.

The writer is a senior policy analyst at the Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute.

Veterans around the country celebrated the announcement that a bipartisan Senate coalition is refusing to confirm members of Veterans Affairs’ Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission. So did VA employees, one-third of whom are veterans, because they care deeply about the agency’s mission and know how much veterans rely on VA’s unique expertise and integrated health-care services.

If confirmed, the commission would have effectuated a misguided VA plan to shutter or gut about one-third of the country’s VA medical centers, forcing millions of veterans into taxpayer-funded private care, whether they want it or not — even in areas where timely private care is almost impossible to access. VA based the closure plan on outdated, pre-pandemic data that was lambasted by government auditors, and it overlooked the billions of dollars already invested in modernizing older VA facilities.

The VA workers we represent continue to deliver superior care. A recent Stanford University study found older veterans were 46 percent less likely to die when treated at VA emergency departments compared with private hospitals, and VA’s care was 21 percent less costly to taxpayers.

Alma Lee, Washington

The writer is president of the AFGE National VA Council.