Category Archives: Veterans

Privatization Is Changing America’s Relationship With Its Physical Stuff

Source: Brian Alexander, The Atlantic, July 12, 2017
 
… As vague as Trump’s pronouncements have been on the matter, it is clear that the general thrust behind the promised building-and-repair push involves using federal dollars as up-front investment to entice private enterprises to provide most of the financing. While Democrats announced their opposition, the general idea of increased privatization of infrastructure has had a bipartisan cast. President Obama supported a plan to create an “infrastructure bank” that would help finance so-called public-private partnerships (known, for their alliteration, as P3s), but that idea fizzled under the glare of Republican opposition. He also floated the idea of selling off the Tennessee Valley Authority. …

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Selling Back To The Public What It Already Owned: ‘Public-Private Partnership’ Shark Bait
Source: Mercedes Schneider, Huffington Post, June 12, 2017
 
Today, I read two articles centered on this idea, both of which concerned Vice President Mike Pence – and one that concerned Pence’s role in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  One article also included a sprinkling of US secretary of [privatized] education, Betsy DeVos.  A major goal of corporate education reform is to deliver public education to private entities (corporations, or even nonprofits, but don’t think that an entity termed “nonprofit” cannot be a handsome money dispenser for those running the nonprofit and doling out contracts). However, the extreme-right-Republican aim does not end with public education but with delivering the operation of the entire American infrastructure to private entities.  In the end, what this entails is having private corporations front money to state and local governments in order to lease back to the public what the public already owns.

How President Trump Might Carry The Torch Of Privatization
Source: Here & Now, WBUR, May 8, 2017

… Now President Trump is poised to continue privatization and private contracting in all kinds of industries, from education to incarceration. Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson looks at the history and politics of privatization with Donald Cohen and Shahrzad Habibi of the group In The Public Interest. …

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Senate Easily Confirms Trump Pick of Shulkin as VA Secretary

Source: Hope Yen, Associated Press, February 13, 2017

The Senate on Monday easily confirmed physician David Shulkin to be secretary of Veterans Affairs, charged with delivering on President Donald Trump’s campaign promises to fix long-standing problems at the department.  Senators voted 100-0 to approve the former Obama administration official, who was the VA’s top health official since 2015, in a rare show of bipartisanship amid partisan rancor over Trump’s other nominees. Shulkin secured the backing of Senate Democrats after pledging at his confirmation hearing to always protect veterans’ interests, even if it meant disagreeing at times with Trump. … The 57-year old physician has ruled out fully privatizing the agency and says wide-scale firings of VA employees are unnecessary, describing the VA workforce as “the best in health care.” … The immediate challenge includes revamping scheduling and access for VA medical appointments following a 2014 wait-time scandal. Shulkin is urging a more integrated VA network where veterans could seek outside private care only in coordination with the VA. He has not sketched out full details. “We’ve yet to hear from him how he’ll pursue President Trump’s vision for a public-private partnership at the VA,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director for the conservative group Concerned Veterans for America. …

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Veterans Affairs Nominee Vows Not to Privatize Health Care
Source: Dave Philipps, New York Times, February 1, 2017

President Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, David J. Shulkin, vowed at his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday to reform — but not privatize — veterans’ health care, potentially putting him at odds with Mr. Trump’s campaign promise to allow all veterans to choose private health care.  “V.A. is a unique national resource that is worth saving,” Dr. Shulkin told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. He added, “The Department of Veterans Affairs will not be privatized under my watch.” …

Privatizing Veterans’ Health Care Isn’t The Cure
Source: Coleman Nee, Cognoscenti, January 24, 2017

President Donald Trump is considering privatizing the health care services of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. During the campaign he promised that veterans should be able to access care from any provider they choose, including for-profit private-sector health networks. It is an idea that has been long championed by the conservative Koch-brothers-funded group, Concerned Veterans of America, and its former leader Pete Hegseth, who was an adviser to the Trump campaign on veterans issues. Yet, the president’s recent selection of David Shulkin to serve as the new VA secretary seems to conflict with Trump’s campaign rhetoric. As VA undersecretary for health in the Obama administration, Shulkin testified that privatizing the VA would be “a terrible mistake.” … While privatization of the VA may sound like a panacea, it’s actually closer to Pandora’s box. … A better way forward is to examine, refine and promote models of public-private partnerships that protect our commitment to those who have served. … What too often gets forgotten in this debate is that the VA has a successful history of providing quality continuum-of-care services through its integrated networks and electronic medical record system. Destroying the integrity of this system could, at best, lead to care delivered by people unfamiliar with health issues specific to veterans and isolated from treatments and medicine at other institutions. At worst, it could create the potential for systematic fraud that moves billions of government dollars into corporate bottom lines, until that care becomes prohibitively expensive and veterans are denied treatment or the taxpayers are on the hook again. Many of us hope that Shulkin can bring a fresh perspective to this debate within the Trump administration. …

Why privatizing the VA won’t do much to help veterans
Source: David Dayen, Business Insider, January 3, 2017

He promised to overhaul the Veterans Administration (VA) health care system and “take care” of the vets. Everyone has interpreted this as code for privatizing the VA, a long-awaited conservative goal. But last week at Mar-a-Lago, after a meeting with health care executives about his VA plans, Trump told reporters this: “We think we have to have kind of a public-private option, because some vets love the VA. Definitely an option on the table to have a system where potentially vets can choose either/or or all private.” … It’s clear that conservatives expect the private market to deliver better service than any public agency. The VA, they expect, would obviously wither on the vine if challenged by the free market. These true believers have perhaps never had to navigate the private health care system and its even longer wait times; comparatively the VA looks like a dream. Republicans tried to lay the groundwork for back-door privatization. The 2014 VA reform legislation mandated a report from a bipartisan Commisson on Care on how to best redesign the VA. This was a stacked deck, widely expected to give Republicans a blue-ribbon pro-privatization report to “prove” their case. Three of the 15 commissioners were CEOs of health care companies that would financially benefit from breaking up VA hospitals; two others had ties to the Koch Brothers, who have bankrolled the privatization front group Concerned Veterans for America for years. But a funny thing happened. The final report of the Commission on Care did not endorse privatization. It recommended enlisting credentialed community provider networks to increase capacity for veterans care, integrated with the VA’s electronic medical records system. The 18 recommendations largely tracked with what VA Secretary Robert McDonald has already been implementing. …

Fact-Checking Fact-Checkers on Privatizing Vets’ Health Care
Source: Suzanne Gordon, American Prospect, December 12, 2016

In the debate over the future of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), no concept has attracted more controversy than “privatization.” Since wholesale privatization of the VHA is deeply unpopular among veterans and their advocacy organizations, groups like the Koch brothers-funded Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) argue that they do not support “privatization” of the VHA. As the CVA’s “Fixing Veterans Health Care” report, published earlier this year explains, the group just wants to give veterans “the same degree of choice that is available to other Americans,” with the federal government paying the tab. Last week, The Washington Post entered the fray. Writing for the paper’s “Fact Checker” column, reporter Michelle Ye Hee Lee gave Senator Jon Tester of Montana and Representative Mark Takano of California, both Democrats, three out of a possible four Pinocchios (signifying “significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions”) for suggesting that the CVA and Trump transition team members support VHA privatization. … Lee’s interpretation flies in the face of volumes of academic and policy research on the privatization movement that went mainstream in the 1980s, notably in the United States and Britain. As the Prospect’s Paul Starr wrote in a 1988 essay, privatization is “any shift of activities or functions from the state to the private sector; any shift of production of goods and services from public to private; including the wholesale of transfer of services from the public to the private sector or what Starr calls “privatization by attrition,” as furnishing costlier private-sector services lead to an underfunding of public ones. … The CVA claims it wants to preserve the VHA, but its proposal would shift government funds to private-sector providers, depriving VHA doctors and other staff of the ability to maintain a high level of clinical and research expertise by treating the specific service-related problems of a large numbers of patients. Such a move would also drain resources for supporting current workers and recruiting new ones. Moreover, the CVA promotes private-sector care even though such care would be more expensive. Like many proponents of privatization, the group supports shifting costs to veterans through out-of-pocket payments and mechanisms like interest-bearing health savings accounts. The CVA proposal would also limit eligibility for care in the private sector or in what remains of the VHA, to veterans with service-related conditions—a change that would hit low-income and indigent veterans the hardest. …

Democrats’ misleading claim that Concerned Veterans for America wants to ‘privatize’ VA
Source: Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Washington Post, December 7, 2016

The two Democrats, who serve on the Senate and House committees on veterans affairs, are resurrecting the stale Democratic talking point that Concerned Veterans for America wants to “privatize” the Department of Veterans Affairs. Concerned Veterans for America, or CVA, is a veterans advocacy group in the Koch brothers’ political network and has been one of the most vocal critics of VA since the 2014 wait-time scandal. The CVA is poised to become more influential under the new administration, as President-elect Donald Trump has tapped the group to help overhaul the veterans health-care system. The most controversial proposal by the group is an expansion of veterans’ health-care options in the private marketplace — which critics, including traditional veterans advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers, say could lead to the dismantling of the current VA. But CVA has not proposed a wholesale transfer of VA’s services over to the private sector — which is what “privatization” usually describes. We took a deeper look at the group’s proposal. … Under the CVA’s proposal, it is the veteran’s choice whether to get medical care from VA or a private doctor. There’s no mandate for a certain percentage of VA’s services to be provided in the private market or for certain medical facilities to be shut down. We award Three Pinocchios to this misleading rhetoric. …

Conservative veterans group proposes privatized health care
Source: Heath Druzin, Stars and Stripes, February 26, 2015

A conservative veterans group is testing its clout with a radical plan unveiled Thursday to largely privatize VA health care. Concerned Veterans for America is calling for the Veterans Health Administration — the wing of the VA that oversees health care — to be turned into an “independent, government-chartered nonprofit corporation.” After decrying “inefficiency, bureaucracy and deadly wait lists” at the VA, Concerned Veterans for America CEO Pete Hegseth acknowledged the uphill battle he has faced in getting support for the plan, which has no congressional sponsors.

New legislation to require regular updates on state-run veteran homes’ health care issues

Source: Dana Chicklas, Fox 17, October 27, 2016

A new Michigan law signed Wednesday requires the state legislature receive quarterly updates regarding veterans’ health care in state facilities. The House Bill 5639, now Public Act 314, is a direct response to the scathing February audit and loved ones’ and veterans’ testimony depicting conditions at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans including: low staffing, workers failing to check on patients, and further claims of abuse and neglect like failing to promptly refill prescriptions. The legislation requires the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency or the Department of Military Veterans Affairs to provide legislative reports on health care issues at the state’s two facilities: the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans in Marquette. … This newly signed legislation requiring quarterly updates is one of several pieces of legislation working to improve veterans’ health care at state facilities. Earlier this year new legislation now instated an Office of the Michigan Veterans Facility Ombudsman in the Legislative Council to investigate health care complaints among other tasks. Additionally there is a package of bills currently introduced which work in part to expand state-run veterans’ homes in Michigan. …

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‘Failed experiment:’ Veterans’ homes bills raise privatization concerns
Source: Josh Sidorowicz, Fox 17, October 23, 2016

A proposal meant to improve care for veterans in Michigan could prove to be a sweeping overhaul of how health care for veterans is managed statewide. But critics worry this latest effort by lawmakers to fix the state’s veterans health care system  will only continue to push state workers out in favor of more privatized care. … Hindenbrand said he is part of a bipartisan effort in both the Michigan House and Senate aiming to investing in state-of-the-art facilities and improving long-term care for veterans. … A package of bills introduced in September would create a Michigan Veterans Facility Authority to oversee the management of new and existing veteran homes. The long term goal is to bring the entire statewide veterans health care system under an authority to replace the current governing structure enacted in 1885, according to Hildenbrand. … As a cause for many of the shortcomings cited in the audit, critics have long pointed to the decision to privatize care in the home by switching from state employees to contracted workers. Mark Williams says the new legislation does little to protect from further privatization of care. He worked in the Grand Rapids home for 19 years before being laid off in 2013 and now serves as president for Local 261 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union that represents the remaining 170 or so state workers at the Grand Rapids home. … Williams said it’s not the prospect of more state workers potentially losing their jobs that angers him but the inconsistency in the quality of care for those who have served our country. …

Veterans’ home bills spark concerns about privatizing care
Source: Cheyna Roth, Michigan Radio, October 17, 2016

A House and Senate joint committee heard testimony Monday about a package of bills that would create a new Michigan Veterans’ Facility Authority. The Authority would oversee new veteran facilities, and eventually, lawmakers hope, the entire Michigan Veteran Health System would go under the umbrella of the authority. The legislation comes after an audit of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans last February revealed persistent issues like staffing shortages and not following through on abuse complaints. … One of the concerns about care for the veterans is allowing privatization of staff at the facilities. Mark Williams is with a local branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a union that represents workers at the veterans’ home in Grand Rapids. He said privatizing staff could lead to poor care. …

Former J2S employee says company is to blame for huge turnover
Source: David Bailey, WZZM, June 30, 2016

After weeks of investigating the situation inside the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, the 13 Watchdog team heard a different perspective regarding severe under staffing issues at the facility. Former J2S employee Amanda Bockheim says she’s concerned the company will be able to renew its contract with the state in light of what she knows about the business. She worked for eight months in the administrative office for the company during a very difficult time.  It’s generally accepted J2S has been short-staffed for at least the past year. … A state audit from the state’s auditor general released this winter found that J2S was short 81 percent of the time over a 4-month time frame.  Shortages were as much as 22 on a given day.  Despite the problems, J2S is bidding on the contract that will begin on September 1, 2016. … She says as a former scheduler, she believes J2S is almost solely responsible for having extreme turnover and absenteeism causing staff shortages and poor care.  She says recruiters at J2S would tell applicants one thing during the hiring process and then it would be switched when the workers finished orientation at the facility. … Mark Williams is the Local 261 AFSCME representative for the state employees and says Frain is wrong for blaming the problems on his state employees. …

Schuette investigating alleged abuse at veterans home
Source: Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press, May 25, 2016

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said Wednesday he is investigating abuse at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and asked for information from anyone with firsthand knowledge of mistreatment of veterans there. But Michigan Democrats say Schuette, a Republican who is considered a likely candidate for governor in 2018, should have acted much sooner on complaints that go back five years. They noted that in a 2011 court case against the state that featured claims of abuse at the home, an attorney for Schuette argued that “residency at the home is completely voluntary, and the residents are free to leave at any time that they wish.” … Dillon noted Schuette’s office opposed veterans who complained of abusive care from contracted employees when some residents of the home joined with a state employee union to try to stop the state privatization of about 170 nursing aide positions, at an estimated annual savings of $4.2 million. …

6 companies interested in Grand Rapids Home for Veterans contract
Source: David Bailey, WZZM, May 23, 2016

New documents obtained by the WZZM 13 Watchdog team show six companies are interested in bidding on the contract for nursing services at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. Notably absent from that list is the current contractor, J2S, a company that’s been under fire for months for not staffing the facility by state guidelines. J2S has done the work since 2013. … J2S representatives are not listed on the sign-up sheets for a mandatory site visit earlier this month which may indicate that leaders at that company perhaps no longer want the contract. Representatives from the following companies attended the mandatory session as part of the state’s contracting program: Vibrus Group, Maxim Healthcare, QCI Healthcare, Arcadia Heath Services, Career Staff Unlimited and Care One Inc. …

Staffing shortages continue to plague Grand Rapids Home for Veterans
Source: David Bailey, WZZM, April 21, 2016

The 13 Watchdog team is taking a look at new allegations of staffing shortages at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. We are also investigating why nursing assistants can now work at the facility without passing a certification test. … New documents we obtained show the Home for Veterans made a new agreement with J2S giving the company more flexibility to bring new people in. The document shows GRHV will accept CENA (Competency-Evaluated Nursing Assistants) applicants who have successfully completed their CENA training but have not yet completed their certification under federal guidelines. The applicants, according to the documents, have four months to get their certification or they must leave the GRHV. …

Privatization savings fade as vets home answers audit
Source: Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press, March 26, 2016

… But the planned remedies — another pay hike for the contractor and bringing in more oversight —could mean higher costs to care for the veterans than existed before the privatization push. The audit confirmed warnings the state received about inadequate staffing and quality of care going back to 2011, when the state first tried to privatize the nursing aide positions. … Now, actions are happening so quickly that officials aren’t able to pinpoint all the associated costs, though Redford told the Free Press he believes there is “still a substantial reduction in cost” from when state employees served as nursing aides. … The state recently approved the fourth increase in the cost of the J2S contract since the company bid on the multi-year deal expected to cost less than $7 million a year. The state also granted the home authorization to hire other nursing contractors to supplement J2S, especially on weekends. A state ombudsman is now beginning to serve the home, and the administration has given a thumbs-up to a suggestion from lawmakers that a “chief compliance officer” be added to the home to make sure things are done right. … Under the original contract, J2S, which has not returned phone calls from the Free Press, had a pay range that went from $13.99 an hour for nursing aides to $24.50 for supervisors, according to records released by the union. A 2013 amendment hiked that hourly range, bringing nursing aides to a low of $14.48 for nursing aides and a high of $26.24 for supervisors. Another amendment, late in 2013, hiked the range to between $14.99 and $27.17 an hour. Then, at the start of 2015, the state hiked the pay again, to a range of $15.95 to $27.52 an hour. … Even without including the performance bonus provided for in the latest amendment, the base pay for the private nursing aides has increased about 21% since the contract began. State nursing aides were paid more than $20 an hour.

Opinion: Stop penny-pinching our veterans
Source: Michigan State Representatives Henry Yanez and David Rutledge, Detroit News, March 27, 2016

Our tax dollars should be used wisely to provide services to veterans, and not to line the pockets of corporations profiting at the expense of these veterans. The bottom line must be the excellent care of our veterans and not penny-pinching to improve a financial spreadsheet. Our veterans deserve caregivers who do their jobs well and respond to their needs. We look forward to hearing from the new interim MVAA Director James Redford about his plans. We will monitor the Grand Rapids home to ensure that residents are safe. No one should worry that if they fall they won’t receive help quickly. No one should be afraid to speak up and demand excellent care. Our veterans put the safety of their fellow citizens before their own. It’s time that we put the care of those veterans first.
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VETERANS AFFAIRS CONTRACTING: Improvements in Policies and Processes Could Yield Cost Savings and Efficiency

Source: Michele Mackin, US Government Accountability Office, GAO-16-810 September 16, 2016

What GAO Found:

GAO found opportunities for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its multi-billion dollar annual procurement spending in several areas including data systems, procurement policies and oversight, acquisition workforce, and contract management. Shortcomings in VA’s recording of procurement data limit its visibility into the full extent of its spending. A recent policy directing that medical-surgical supply orders be captured in VA’s procurement system is a step in the right direction, but proper implementation is at risk because procedures are not in place to ensure all obligations are recorded. VA’s procurement policy framework is outdated and fragmented. As a result, contracting officers are unclear where to turn for current guidance. VA has been revising its overarching procurement regulation since 2011 but completion is not expected until 2018. Meanwhile, contracting officers must consult two versions of this regulation, as well as other policy related documents. Clear policies are key to ensuring VA conducts procurements effectively on behalf of veterans. The figure below depicts the various sources of regulations, policy, and guidance. Managing workload is a challenge for VA’s contracting officers and their representatives in customer offices. A 2014 directive created contract liaisons at medical centers in part to address this issue, but medical centers have not consistently implemented this initiative, and VA officials have not identified the reasons for uneven implementation. VA can improve its procurement processes and achieve cost savings by complying with applicable policy and regulation to obtain available discounts when procuring medical supplies; leveraging its buying power through strategic sourcing; ensuring key documents are included in the contract file, as GAO found that more than a third of the 37 contract files lacked key documents; and ensuring that compliance reviews identify all contract file shortcomings.

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VA secretary: Privatization not the answer

Source: Steve B. Brooks, American Legion, August 31, 2016

While some are calling for the privatization of health care for the nation’s veterans, the man leading the Department of Veterans Affairs says those calls are not motivated solely by concern for veterans. Addressing The American Legion National Convention in Cincinnati, VA Secretary Bob McDonald said such proposals aren’t driven by veterans’ best interests. … “It doesn’t serve veterans well, and it doesn’t sit well with me. So make sure there’s substance to those discussions, that they’re about veterans’ interests and not something else.” During a 24-minute speech, McDonald admitted VA still has work in front of it but said the agency has the opportunity to make 2016 the year “it turns the corner.” …McDonald pointed to changes in leadership, noting that 14 of the department’s top 17 executives are new since he was appointed in July 2014. “These are world-class, enthusiastic business leaders and health-care professionals,” he said. “Eight of them are veterans themselves.” …

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Obama opposes privatization of VA health care
Source: Associated Press, June 5, 2016

President Barack Obama is opposing suggestions the government privatize the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve health care veterans receive. In an interview with the Colorado Springs Gazette, the president said his administration has made progress modernizing the VA and providing veterans with more timely health care following criticism over wait times. Privatizing the agency would delay that progress, he said. … U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, agreed with Obama that total privatization would be a mistake, but he said veterans need more options, including private care. To cope with the problems, Obama signed the Veterans Access to Care Act that requires the VA to contract with private providers when a clinic isn’t within 40 miles of the veteran seeking care or the wait time for care is more than 30 days.

The Conservative Plan to Fix the VA Has Vets Hopping Mad
Source: AJ Vicens, Mother Jones, April 5, 2016

Some members of the commission established by Congress to evaluate the Department of Veterans Health Administration have proposed drastically reducing the size of the VHA by closing its health facilities and transferring the care of the nation’s millions of military veterans to the private sector. But in a letter sent to the chair of the Commission on Care, leaders of eight of the country’s most prominent veterans’ advocacy organizations blasted the proposal. … The “Strawman” report, which echoes VA privatization efforts that have been backed by the Koch brothers, says “bold transformation” is needed for the VA to address the needs of its enrolled veterans, and that the system is “seriously broken” with “no efficient path to repair it.” The plan calls for closing many “obsolete” VA facilities and moving toward a model where veterans can seek taxpayer-funded care at private health care facilities. A process similar to the Base Realignment and Closure system—used by the military since the end of the Cold War to decide which bases to close—would be used to evaluate which VA medical facilities would close. Under the plan, there would be no new facilities or major renovations of the existing VA facilities. The plan also called for private doctors to be reimbursed at 5 to 10 percent higher than the Medicare rate, so they would have a greater incentive to participate.

Sioux Falls protests VA privatization

Source: Jack Taylor, KELO, July 26, 2016

If your going by the Sioux Falls VA between 11 a.m. and noon today you’ll see a protest against privatizing the government hospitals. Jane Nygaard with the American Federation of Government employees says the Koch brothers are behind “Concerned Veterans of America” which is working to privatize the VA. Nygaard asks why would the nation privatize VA hospitals when that act wouldn’t provide the specialized care that veterans need. … he says polls nationwide show that 80% of veterans say they do not want the VA privatized.  She says the VA Commission on Care report says the VA gives the best quality care to veterans and for lesser cost to taxpayers. …

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Union, veterans protest potential VA privatization
Source: Matt Murphy, Wyoming Tribune Eagle, July 7, 2016

Concern over Congress privatizing Veterans Affairs health-care services led local union members and military veterans to protest near Cheyenne’s VA Medical Center Wednesday morning. A couple dozen people stood on either side of Pershing Boulevard near the roundabout at Converse Avenue beginning at about 7 a.m. They waved small American flags and held blue signs with gold lettering that read, “Veterans for a Strong VA,” “Staff the VA” and “VA Workers for a Strong VA.” … If the system is privatized, he said, there is concern that level of care will be lost. Further, Massan said there is concern that portability, or the ability for military veterans to use VA facilities nationwide, could disappear. Talk of privatizing VA medical services has come up at the federal level through the years, including this year. The Commission on Care, a panel created by Congress to analyze the services provided by the VA, has been studying the issue for several months – including privatization. The panel issued its final report Tuesday, which recommended overhauling the VA system and expanding access to private health care, but not full privatization, according to the Federal Times and the Wall Street Journal. …

Local private sector help for VA projects backed at Senate hearing
Source: Joseph Morton, Omaha World-Herald, June 30, 2016

A proposal to build new veterans health facilities through public-private partnerships received a warm reception Wednesday at a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing. Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., presented legislation to allow those partnerships, saying Americans’ confidence in the care provided to veterans has been shaken. … It’s a key issue for the Omaha area, which has seen a $560 million replacement for its aging VA hospital stalled by cost overruns and delays on other VA projects. Local donors have rallied to the idea of a public-private partnership that would instead construct a $136 million ambulatory care facility — a scaled-down but presumably much more achievable approach. Involving the private sector in VA construction projects can help them progress more smoothly, Fischer said. … It’s unclear exactly when the bills will come up for votes, but Ashford and Fischer talked about seeking congressional action by September and certainly before the end of the year. Several veterans organizations on Wednesday offered testimony supporting the legislation. The VA also offered its strong support for the bill while raising a technical issue on some of the language.

Local union workers and veterans protest VA privatization
Source: Ethan Levin, Michigan Daily, June 22, 2016

About 50 veterans, union employees and family members gathered at the Ann Arbor Veterans Affairs Hospital Wednesday to protest the proposed federal privatization of veteran health care. The protest was organized by the American Federation of Labor and the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). … Amie Pounds, a national organizer for AFGE, and James Jr. agreed that the congressional commission’s assessments have been not only inaccurate but also swayed by private corporations’ profit interests. According to Pounds, of the 15 members on the commission, not one can be linked to a mainstream veterans service organization. Rather, the panel is comprised of primarily private hospital executives who stand only to benefit financially from privatizing the VA. …

Vet Groups Uniting To Oppose Privatized Care, Defend VA
Source: Terry Howell, Military Advantage, June 23, 2016

The nation’s leading veteran services organizations are rallying behind the Department of Veterans Affairs and its beleaguered health care system, touting the experience of staff, the breadth of services and its holistic approach to care delivery that they argue the private sector cannot match. The VSOs are warning of politicians and groups with agendas that constantly criticize VA health care, refuse to acknowledge reforms and thus advance a camouflaged campaign to dismantle VA health care. They also say it is time to better educate their own members on actions being taken to improve to the healthcare system that millions of veterans rely upon. …

Behind shrinking middle-class jobs: A surge in outsourcing

Source: Don Lee, Los Angeles Times, June 30, 2016

Globalization and the offshoring of U.S. manufacturing jobs to China and other cheap-labor countries are commonly blamed for driving down the wages and living standards of ordinary American workers, but there is another, less-known factor behind the shrinking middle class: domestic outsourcing. From human resource workers and customer service reps to cooks, janitors and security guards, many occupations have been farmed out by employers over the years. No one knows their total numbers, but rough estimates based on the growth of temporary-help and other business and professional service payrolls suggest that one in six jobs today are subcontracted, or almost 20 million positions, said Lynn Reaser, economist at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego.  Separate Labor Department data show that some of these occupations have seen a significant decline in inflation-adjusted, or real, wages over the last decade. In 2005, there were 138,210 workers nationwide who repaired ATMs, computers and other office machines, earning a mean annual salary of $37,640. Ten years later, the number of such jobs had shrunk to 106,100, with most of them subcontracted at annual pay of $38,990. But after accounting for inflation, that’s a drop of about 15% from 2005. …

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Race to the Bottom: How Outsourcing Public Services Rewards Corporations and Punishes the Middle Class
Source:In the Public Interest, June 2014

From the summary:
As state and local governments outsource important public functions to for-profit and other private entities, what happens to the quality of life for the workers who provide these services, and the communities in which they live? A growing body of evidence and industry wage data suggest an alarming trend: outsourcing public services sets off a downward spiral in which reduced worker wages and benefits can hurt the local economy and overall stability of middle and working class communities. By paying family-supporting wages and providing important benefits such as health insurance and sick leave, governments historically created intentional “ladders
of opportunity” to allow workers and their families to reach the middle class. This is especially true for women and African Americans for whom the public sector has been a source of stable middle-class careers. Low-road government contracts reverse this dynamic. While corporations rake in increasing profits through taxpayer dollars and CEO compensation continues to soar, numerous examples in this report show that workers employed by state and local government contractors receive low wages and few benefits.

Report: Privatizing public service jobs a disaster
Source: Mark Gruenberg, People’s World, June 12 2014

Privatization widens economic inequality and punishes communities
Source: Donald Cohen, The Hill, June 6, 2014

A growing body of evidence suggests an alarming trend: outsourcing public services is accelerating the downward spiral in which reduced worker wages and benefits hurt the local economy and overall stability of working and middle class communities. This growing income gap, driven by local and state government contracting, rising CEO contractor salaries and falling worker wages, is the subject of a new report from In The Public Interest (ITPI) titled “Race to the Bottom: How Outsourcing Public Services Rewards Corporations and Punishes the Middle Class.”

Civil Servitude
Source: Phil Mattera, Dirt Diggers Digest, June 7, 2014

Privatizing Government Services Doesn’t Only Hurt Public Workers
Source: David Moberg, In These Times, Working in These Times blog, June 6, 2014

How Outsourcing Whacks the Middle Class
Source: Gregory N. Heires, The New Crossroads, June 9, 2014

One percent’s twisted new heist: What’s really behind privatization
Source: Elias Isquith, Salon, June 6, 2014

Outsourcing government not only leads to poor services — it’s killing the middle class, an expert tells Salon…To explain how that is — and why it’s important that people committed to economic justice push back against the practice — Salon recently spoke with ITPI research and policy director Shar Habibi. Our conversation is below and has been edited for length and clarity….

The High Cost of Low-Wage Public Service Outsourcing
Source: Rob Garver, Fiscal Times, June 3, 2014

In the late 1990s, as part of a rush to save money by privatizing government services, many school districts in New Jersey turned over their school lunch programs to private contractors. For the school districts, the results were what they expected – costs dropped. But a study set for release this afternoon suggests that the overall cost to New Jersey may have been higher than the amount saved by individual school districts – a warning that could apply to states, municipalities, and the federal government alike. The study, “Race to the Bottom: How Outsourcing Public Services Rewards Corporations and Punishes the Middle Class,” was produced by In the Public Interest, a watchdog group that monitors privatization of government contracts. Its central finding is that when the government outsources its services, “local communities suffer the consequences of lower quality services and middle class jobs being replaced with poverty-level wages” while “far-away corporate executives benefit from lucrative government contracts.” …

How privatizing government hollowed out the middle class
Source: Timothy Noah, MSNBC, June 3, 2014

Two decades ago, liberals and conservatives found common ground in the doctrine of government privatization. … A generation later, the federal government employs more than three times as many contract workers as government workers, and state and local governments spend a combined $1.5 trillion on outsourcing. … Now a new report by In the Public Interest, a nonprofit group that tracks government contracting, argues that privatization at the state and local level “contributes to the decline of the middle class and the rise in poverty-level jobs, thereby exacerbating growing economic inequality.” … Much of the “efficiency” realized by privatization lies in reducing former middle-class workers to poverty wages. Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington nonprofit, argued in the conference call that even from an efficiency point of view, privatizing low-end government jobs was self-defeating.

VA privatization debate to hinge on coming report

Source: Travis J. Tritten, Stars & Stripes, June 29, 2016

The coming week could be a watershed moment in the volatile debate over privatizing more health care at the Department of Veterans Affairs. A panel created by Congress to overhaul the VA is expected to release final recommendations July 6 that are two years in the making and will likely include the option of private care for the millions of veterans who now use the federal system of hospitals and clinics. It will come amid controversial proposals to give all veterans a card to access private doctors and to turn the VA into a not-for-profit corporation. Those efforts to push the department toward privatized care caused near universal blowback from national veterans groups. Unionized VA employees were staging opposition rallies across the country due to fears over privatization in the lead-up to the commission’s VA report. … [American Federation of Government Employees] is concerned that the Commission on Care is bent on significantly expanding the use of private care to treat veterans – a move that Cox said could result in the closure of 12 to 15 VA health care facilities annually due to a lack of need. … Eight veterans groups, including the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, strongly criticized the plan and warned they would reject any final recommendations aimed at privatizing the VA health care system, which is the largest integrated health care network in the country. …

Related:

Room for Debate: Should the Veterans Health Care System be Privatized?
Source: New York Times, June 28, 2016

The federal Commission on Care, set up to study the future of Department of Veterans Affairs health care, is to present its final report this week. Seven of its 15 member have released recommendations that some veterans groups say would privatize the system. Would privatization of V.A. health care improve the system or undermine it?

Debaters:

PHILLIP LONGMAN: Phillip Longman is the author of “Best Care Anywhere: Why VA Care Would Work Better for Everyone.” He serves on the Commission on Care, which has been tasked by Congress and President Obama with crafting a strategic plan for the future of veterans health care.

AVIK ROY: Avik Roy is the opinion editor at Forbes. He co-chaired the Fixing Veterans Health Care Taskforce, along with former Representative Jim Marshall (D.-Ga.), former Senator Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) and Michael Kussman, a former Veterans Heath Administration director.

The State Paid Nearly $28 Million for a Flawed System That Fails to Meet the Needs of Its Veterans Homes

Source: California Department of Veteran Affairs, Report 2015-121, June 2016

Our audit concerning the development and implementation of the California Department of Veterans Affairs’ (CalVet) Enterprise-Wide Veterans Home Information System (system) revealed the following:

  • The system has not improved the efficiency of the homes’ process for documenting medical care nor has it reduced reliance on paper because of system flaws.
  • System instability and concerns about functionality resulted in CalVet implementing fewer system functions at some homes, thereby limiting CalVet’s ability to provide more efficient care for veterans. …
  • CalVet did not exercise adequate oversight of its system project. It did not complete or partially completed six of the 12 required management oversight plans to ensure effective project management. It hired one contractor to provide both independent project oversight and independent verification and validation services, and those services were inadequate.

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Fix For VA Health Snarls Veterans And Doctors In New Bureaucracy

Source: Quil Lawrence, Eric Whitney, and Michael Tomsic, Kaiser Health News, May 16, 2016

Veterans are still waiting to see a doctor. Two years ago, vets were waiting a long time for care at Veterans Affairs clinics. At one facility in Phoenix, for example, veterans waited on average 115 days for an appointment. … Congress and the VA came up with a fix: Veterans Choice, a $10 billion program. Veterans received a card that was supposed to allow them to see a non-VA doctor if they were either more than 40 miles away from a VA facility or they were going to have to wait longer than 30 days for a VA provider to see them. The problem was, Congress gave them only 90 days to set up the system. Facing that deadline, the VA turned to two private companies to administer the program — helping veterans get an appointment with a doctor and then working with the VA to pay that doctor. … Wait times have gotten worse. Compared to this time last year, there are 70,000 more appointments where it took vets at least a month to be seen, according to the VA’s own audit. …

… This is playing out in a big way in Montana. That state has more veterans per capita than any state besides Alaska. … Hospitals, clinics and doctors across the country have complained about not getting paid, or only paid very slowly. Some have just stopped taking Veterans Choice patients altogether, and Montana’s largest health care network, Billings Clinic, doesn’t accept any VA Choice patients. … The delays have become a frustration within the VA, too. Tymalyn James is a nurse care manager at the VA clinic in Wilmington, North Carolina. She said Choice has made the original problem worse. When she and her colleagues are swamped and refer someone outside the VA, it’s supposed to help the veteran get care more quickly. But James said the opposite is happening. …