Topics: Labor Unions

Veterans Affairs employees union fears veterans will get care elsewhere because of scandal

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With Congress looking for a way to fix the Veterans Affairs Department in response to reports of veterans dying while waiting for care, the union that represents VA employees fears that it will lose patient clientele.

The union's preferred solution is the hiring of more VA caregivers. "Until Congress gives the VA the resources to hire enough frontline clinicians to meet demand, our veterans will continue to face long waits," J. David Cox, Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, wrote Thursday at the Huffington Post. "And to be clear, sending veterans to expensive health care providers outside the VA system on a massive scale will not fix the underlying resource deficiencies plaguing our veterans medical centers."

The Huffington Post editors referred readers to a proposal made by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., as background for Cox's point about health care providers outside the VA system.

"Let's let our veterans choose the health care that they need and want the most and not have to be bound to just going to the VA," McCain told Roll Call. "The VA is great on traumatic brain injury, PTSD, war wounds, prosthesis and all that, but other than that why wouldn't a veteran who has served his country honorably be able, that lives away from Phoenix, maybe hours away, not be able to go to the health care provider of his or her choice."

The union may also have cause for alarm in a comment made by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is also interested in an "entrepreneurial" solution that would expand the places where veterans can get care, perhaps through a program related to Obamacare.

"Maybe we should take a look at how we deal with our veterans' needs in a way that says let's help them closer to home, whether that's a federally qualified health clinic or in some other institution that provides health care closer to home," Pelosi said during her Thursday press briefing. "[It's] especially important for our veterans who live in rural areas."

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