On the Trump/Koch war against the VA | AspenTimes.com

On the Trump/Koch war against the VA

John Colson
Hit & Run

In the Republican Party's headlong battle to undermine and deplete our federal government in any and every way they can find, the latest intended victim is our nation's medical system for war veterans, the Veterans Administration.

President Donald Trump has, since he first opened his campaign to become president, made no secret of his drive to pull the federal rug out from under the VA, which has existed for more than 150 years, and "privatize" the entire agency, but it was not until this week that the public heard anything about his plans for privatizing the VA with any kind of specificity.

And the news did not come from Trump himself or his administration, but from troubled bureaucrats concerned about Trump's erratic political behavior and his seeming lack of even the simplest understanding of how the VA works and does its job.

That later concern is notable largely because Trump himself never served in the military (he got a deferment reportedly thanks to bone spurs but really because his daddy was rich and powerful) and thus has never had to resort to medical treatment from the VA.

I should point here that I, too, avoided military service in my younger days. I was in line to be drafted into the Vietnam War in the late 1960s but instead went on the lam and dodged the draft. As a result, I am fairly ignorant about the inner workings of the VA.

My dad, however, served in WWII and was an Army reservist until near the time of his death in 2007, and he did go to the VA for medical services in Maryland, Illinois and Arizona when he lived in those states. And I, as his eldest son and being geographically closer to him than anyone else in the family toward the end, heard all about his experiences under the care of VA doctors in Arizona.

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And while he griped occasionally about having to go all the way to Phoenix for some services (he lived near Prescott, the one-time capital back when Arizona was a territory), and even about the level of care, he mostly was very happy with the VA and its treatment of him.

He also was happy that the VA granted both his wives (he married twice in his life) coverage under the TriCare insurance blanket that also covers the members of Congress.

I also heard plenty of accolades from his first wife, my mom, and his second wife about their sense of satisfaction with the coverage and treatment they received under the VA system.

So I do know something about the subject, and one thing I know for sure is that privatization would be a devastating blow to the VA in general and to veterans' health care overall.

How do I know that, since it hasn't happened yet, you ask?

It's simple: I merely point to other examples of privatized federal function and the mess that privatization left once all the lies and propaganda from the right wing were allowed to fade away.

I refer here to those parts of our federal prison system that have been turned over to private corporations, who have notoriously been found to be far more interested in the profits they get from the federal coffers than in the health and well-being of their inmates.

I refer to the equally notorious youth-detention centers in the southwest, where debasement, neglect and even death have been the results of turning the children of migrants over to the private prison authorities.

I refer also to the national parks system, where once federal employees ran the various concessions and facilities and generally kept things in pretty good shape, but where things are now under the control of profiteers who have increasingly allowed services to decline in search of ever rising profits from their federal management contracts.

And then there are the stretches of the Interstate Highway System that have been turned over to the private sector, much to the chagrin of motorists who have been complaining about rising tolls and declining quality of the road surfaces, the rising costs and declining quality of services at restaurants and gas stations along the roadways, and other problems.

The list goes on, but you get my drift — it seems that every time something is privatized in line with the wishes of Republicans, things get worse instead of better.

All of this is on top of the fact that the privatization of the VA is something that comes straight out of the playbook of right-wing billionaires David and Charles Koch, who have been itching to kill off the VA for years.

Trump, of course, still marches to the tune of the Koch choir, even though the Koch brothers distanced themselves from him during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

I find it interesting, I should add, that I was unable to find any information about whether the Koch brothers (any of them) ever served in the military or found themselves having to turn to the VA for medical treatment. If they had, they might be singing a different tune right now, at least as far as leaving the VA alone is concerned.

Don't get me wrong — I know there are plenty of things wrong with the VA, and that it needs better funding and management. But bringing in private-sector providers whose main goal is making money, not making lives any better, is not the way to go.

Email at jbcolson51@gmail.com.

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