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A bench representing each branch of the U.S. Military sits underneath a tree on the grounds of the Tomah VA facility.

On Wednesday, May 16, the House is scheduled to steamroll the VA MISSION bill through the House, with nearly all the Republicans and some of the Democrats voting for it. The MISSION bill will privatize the Veterans Administration. Like a Christmas tree with wonderful gifts beneath it, including prettily wrapped poison candy, legislators and veterans groups must beware.

Veterans’ organizations like the American Legion and nearly all the other veterans groups are in favor of passing the MISSION bill. Yet they say they’re against VA privatization. They should reconsider and withdraw their support for the MISSION bill before they help destroy VA health care.

Lobbyists of the Koch brothers, White House and VA political appointees and pharmaceutical, hospital and insurance executives have carefully hidden poison gifts under the MISSION Christmas Tree bill that will destroy the VA via privatization. And make special interests very rich.

America’s veterans want the VA fixed, fully funded and fully staffed -- not privatized!

Americans need facts, not propaganda:

• 7.2 million of us who are veterans use the VA for all or part of our health care.

• This number is up 85 percent since 2001.

• Why? Because vets are aging, younger vets have heavy war injuries, private insurance is ever more expensive or we have no insurance.

• 47 percent of us were in combat. Combat produces many physical, mental and emotional wounds/injuries and lifelong diseases. Think Agent Orange.

• One-half of the 7.2 million vets using VA care are disabled or very low income.

• Nearly half of us enrolled in VA care are 65 or over.

Do we live in a democracy or is America now run in a smoky back room of crooked politicians, Wall Streeters and radical right-wing billionaires? Why is it that vets using the VA say, “Fix, fund and fully staff the VA” and the Congress does just the opposite?

A Veterans of Foreign Wars survey finds:

• 92 percent of America’s 20 million vets want the VA fixed and NOT dismantled.

• 77 percent of us vets who actually use the VA say we are very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with our care.

A Disabled American Veterans survey (remember half of us using the VA are disabled) found:

• 87 percent of veterans said the federal government should provide a health system dedicated to the needs of ill and injured veterans.

Vote Vets, a progressive political action committee, conducted a national survey and found:

• 80 percent of vets say they do not want private health care vouchers to be spent on private health care.

• Half of us say we “would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supported privatization, including 53 percent of veterans who identified as Republicans, 57 percent of independents and 67 percent of Democrats."

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What part of NO does the Congress not understand?

Nearly all of us 7 million vets using the VA and most of the 20 million vets in America say fix and fund the VA. So if we live in a democracy, let’s do what the vets want.

They did what we wanted when they were young. And now, if they lived through the wars, they have many health problems, they want to be taken care of by VA doctors and nurses, the VA care is 30 percent less costly than private care and the VA overall is a top-quality provider. But it is underfunded by billions of dollars, understaffed by tens of thousands of medical personnel and has a backlog of $30 billion worth of improvement and new facilities needed. The VA must be fixed.

A senator named Sanders said, “If you can’t afford to take care of your veterans, then don’t go to war.”

Congress listen up! Do what veterans want.  Don’t privatize the VA via choice! Fix and fund the VA!

If you choose to listen to the private sector special interests who want to make a fast buck off of our illnesses, then we will “remember in November” in polling booths across America.

We demand the care we were promised!

Fix, fund and fully staff the VA! Or, on Nov. 6 we will vote for someone who will.

The Stop VA Privatization, Fix, Fund & Full Staff the VA Working Group of Veterans for Peace Work Group who co-authored this op/ed include: Leslie “Buzz” W. Davis III, U.S. Army 1967-70 S. Korea, VFP Ch. 13 & DAV; Robert W. Beverly, USMC Sgt., Vietnam 1966-67; John Spitzberg, U.S. Army, USAF, 1958-72, Vietnam, VFP, Past Pres., Ch. 099; Harvey Bennett, U.S. Navy 1965-69 Vietnam, USS Ranger (CVA -61) Life Member VFP; Kay Davis, VFP Ch. 13; David Cooley, U.S. Navy, 1969-73, Vietnam. 1972, VFP & DAV; Cara Bissell, U.S. Army 1970-72, Fort Sam Houston lab tech 91B20, Lifetime Member VFP; Alice Ritter, U.S. Air Force 1964-86, varied bases support, Lifetime Member VFP; Dan Gilman, U.S. Army, 1967-69, Vietnam, VFP Greater Seattle Chapter 92; Richard Chamberlin, SK3 U.S. Navy 1966-70 Danang, Chu Lai Vietnam; Sat Bir Kaur Khalsa, Assoc. Member VFP Tucson Ch. 13; Moji Agha, Assoc. Member, VFP Chapters 13 & 120. This Work Group operates in 19 states and 33 cities conducting VA gate actions, rallies, press conferences, town halls, leafleting, talking on radio and TV shows, bannering, etc.

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