Go watch former Daily Show host Jon Stewart’s scorching takedown of lawmakers on Tuesday over their failure to fully fund the 9/11 Victim Fund. It’s powerful political theater.
“There is not a person here, there is not an empty chair on that stage that didn’t tweet out never forget the heroes of 9/11, never forget their bravery, never forget what they did, what they gave to this country. Well, here they are,” Stewart said to a near empty House Judiciary Committee as he gestured towards the first responders behind him.
This call-out of shameful hypocrisy reminds me of what’s happening right now at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
President Trump actively courts support from the military community, often with his signature pomp. “We’re rebuilding our military like never before. Brand new fighter jets. Brand new ships of all kinds. Every soldier has the best equipment,” he said at a veterans fundraiser in April.
Yet, last week, his administration’s VA leadership launched a program to privatize the health care of millions of veterans. The new Veterans Community Care Program will outsource more of the agency’s care to private hospitals, physicians, and other providers.
The move is the latest in a longtime push by groups like the Koch-backed Concerned Veterans for America to dismantle a well-functioning public system. As journalist David Dayen has written, “To a libertarian who believes government can’t help but screw up whatever it touches, the VA represents a threat.”
As we’ve documented, a glimpse of what outsourced veterans health care might look like is Medicaid privatization. In states like Kansas and Iowa, privatization has led to cuts in care, oversight, and transparency. Handing over health care management to private insurance corporations has been devastating for many Medicaid recipients that depend on public provision for life-sustaining care.
Veterans health care isn’t fully privatized — yet. Veterans who have to drive 30 to 60 minutes or have to wait more than 20 or 28 days for an appointment will now be eligible to see private sector doctors and hospitals.
But, as health care journalist Suzanne Gordon writes, “expensive outsourced care could deplete the [veterans health care] budget and deprive programs of the volume of patients that allow clinicians to maintain their skills and hone their expertise.”
Support the troops? Apparently only until they’re done serving.