August 8, 2016
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Sioux Falls, SD – Holding signs that read “VA Workers for a Strong VA,” Veterans Administration Health System workers picketed here July 26 to protest proposals to privatize health care for the nation’s veterans.
A report sent to the White House July 5 by the federal Commission on Care said VA hospitals still have “profound deficiencies” and recommended creating a network in which veterans could receive federally funded care from private doctors and hospitals. It advocated eliminating the restrictions in the current Veteran’s Choice program, in which veterans can use their VA coverage outside the system if they would have to wait at least 30 days or travel at least 40 miles for a VA appointment. “I don’t believe that privatizing the VA is in the best interests of veterans,” said Maxine Schaff, president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 1509, who has worked at the VA Hospital in Sioux Falls for 31 years. The current system, she says, combines both mental-health and medical care under the same umbrella, and sending more veterans outside it would result in more fragmented care. Read more