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Veterans Health Administration

VA, AFGE Reach ‘Historic’ Settlement To Reinstate Wrongfully Fired Workers

Thousands of former Department of Veterans Affairs employees will soon have the option to return to work, after the VA reached a settlement agreement with the American Federation of Government Employees. The agreement will let former VA employees who were terminated for minor offenses under the 2017 VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act choose between either getting reinstated at VA or receiving compensation. Hundreds of other former employees whom VA and AFGE agree had engaged in grievous misconduct will have their terminations upheld.

Pact Act Problems

When President Joe Biden braved Republican jeers and boos to deliver his State of the Union address in February, one of the few lines that received bipartisan applause recalled Congressional action last year on what he hailed then as the “most significant law our nation has ever passed to help millions of veterans.” Called the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, this legislation allocates $280 billion over the next decade for health care and disability pay for former service members harmed by toxic substances. An estimated 3.5 million service members were exposed to noxious fumes from open burn pits and other hazards during three decades of U.S. military intervention in the Middle East.

Veterans’ Health Care For Mental And Environmental Illnesses Under Attack

In recent years, both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have backed privatization of services provided by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).  As part of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the VHA serves about nine million patients and operates the largest public healthcare  system in the country. Since 2015, billions of dollars have been diverted from VHA care to private doctors and for-profit hospitals who treat veterans in costlier and less effective fashion.  This cannibalization of the VHA budget began under President Obama, escalated during the Trump era, and continues under Joe Biden.

Correcting The Record About Veterans’ Health Care

Last week, USAToday ran a feature by reporter Jill Castellano that spotlighted issues around the VA MISSION Act, which is supposed to assure that veterans have easier access to care – outside the VA when clinically necessary. The project was blatantly biased and had Koch fingerprints all over it. We hate to give it any extra attention but must correct the record. The piece falsely accuses the VA of systematically denying veterans access to private sector care when it’s warranted. In truth, veterans are being referred to the private sector at acceleratingly high levels, as the aforementioned Hill op-edmakes clear. Much of the story centers on the MISSION Act’s criteria of providing eligibility for private sector care for veterans “if it is in their best medical interest.”

Calculating The Full Cost Of War

The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks that were used to justify multiple Middle Eastern interventions is a fitting occasion to consider the ultimate cost of military combat. Thanks to advances in military medicine, soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan have had a much higher survival rate, recovering from wounds that would have been fatal decades earlier in Vietnam. As a result, far more post-9/11 combat veterans carry wounds of war, both visible and invisible, for the rest of their lives. Many news reports cite the trillions of dollars that have been spent directly by the Department of Defense and related agencies on two simultaneous occupations and other global war on terror operations.
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