Veterans say no to VA privatization

April 9, 2018

On March 15—just a little more than a week before President Donald Trump fired Veterans Administration Secretary David Shulkin via tweet—the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) released findings of a poll showing that its members did not approve of the job Shulkin was doing, but also did not want the VA to privatize its services under any circumstances.

The groundbreaking poll of more than 4,000 members of the post-9/11 veteran and military community—the only public and current poll of its kind—came after Shulkin had been “besieged by allegations of ethical lapses; coupled with a determined campaign against him by conservatives, who favor greater privatization of the huge VA healthcare system,” according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.

Overall, the IAVA reveals, the majority of veterans do not trust VA leadership nationally or locally. Only 24% of veterans surveyed approved of the Secretary’s performance; 41% disapproved or strongly disapproved of the Secretary’s performance; and a third of veterans surveyed were not sure how they would rate the VA Secretary’s performance. Local leadership fared better, but is still failing to meet the high standard veterans expect.

Notably, as the President floats the name of Dr. Ronny L. Jackson—the chief White House physician and a rear admiral in the Navy—as a replacement for Shulkin, IAVA data show that the majority of veterans think the VA Secretary should be a veteran, and that the majority of IAVA members do not support privatizing the VA.

Fully 54% are against privatization, with 20% unsure; and 26%, in support.

“We hope that the President and the [new] VA Secretary will hear our voices now. As we’ve been saying for the past year, politicians need to stop politicizing veterans and start listening to them,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of the IAVA.

“While opinions vary,” he said, “most veterans are fed up with seeing the VA in the headlines for scandals and political drama. They expect to see VA solid leadership focused on delivering outcomes for veterans. Our veterans have outlined exactly what they want to see done in Washington and for [the] VA nationwide, and will push to cut through the noise to move our country forward. But that’s hard to do with leadership struggles continuing at VA on an almost hourly basis. The time for strong leadership for veterans is now.”

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