The Department of Veterans Affairs said in a recent press release that it wants to “debunk the privatization myth” about the agency once and for all.
“There is no effort underway to privatize VA, and to suggest otherwise is completely false and a red herring designed to distract and avoid honest debate on the real issues surrounding Veterans’ health care,” wrote the agency.
One of the angles the VA used to debunk the myth is with respect to the agency’s budget. The VA said that in 1998, its budget was $42.38 billion. 20 years later, the government is spending four times more, putting it at $188.65 billion.
In the same time period, the agency has gone from 240,846 employees to 385,233. The VA also notes that in the last 18 years it has added 130 medical facilities, going from 1,110 to 1,240.
The VA also said that while the agency partners with the private sector to expand its healthcare offerings, it “has nothing to do with privatization.”
According to the agency:
Currently, VA operates seven distinct community care programs. VA is working with Congress to merge all of VA’s community care efforts into a single, streamlined program that’s easy for Veterans and VA employees to use so the department can work with Veterans to coordinate their care with private providers when VA can’t provide the care in a timely way or when it’s in Veterans’ best medical interest.
The fact is that demand for Veterans’ health care is outpacing VA’s ability to supply it wholly in-house. And with America facing a looming doctor shortage, VA has to be able to share health care resources with the private sector through an effective community care program. There is just no other option and, once again, VA has offered this solution since the World War II era.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Congressman Phil Roe (R-TN), summed it up this way:
If we’re trying to privatize, we’re not doing a very good job. We’ve gone from 250,000 employees in the VA in 2009 to 370,000 employees, and we’ve gone from a $93.5 billion budget to what the president’s asked this year is $198 billion. It sounds like we’ve been an utter failure if we’re trying to privatize.