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Kuster Says Trumpcare “Reneges” On Promises Made To Veterans

Kuster Joins Duckworth, Veterans in Congress to Criticize Trumpcare’s Devastating Tax Hike on Millions of Veterans

(Washington, DC) — Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) joined combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee Jack Reed (D-RI), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Tim Walz (D-MN), and several others to criticize President Trump and his Republican allies in Congress for attempting to impose a tax hike on millions of Veterans’ healthcare. Despite the President’s campaign pledge to “ensure our Veterans get the care they need wherever and whenever they need it,” a last-minute amendment proposed to the Republican healthcare repeal plan would make Veterans ineligible for health care tax credits that could help them afford private health insurance. 

This week, Republicans introduced an amendment to the American Health Care Act that would prohibit veterans who are “eligible” to receive VA care from receiving any tax credits to help pay for care outside the VA, even if they are not enrolled in the VA. In addition to preventing veterans from access to affordable health care options, forcing veterans to seek care at the VA could create a significant influx of veterans enrolling in the VA at a time when the VA is not equipped to enroll them quickly. This is particularly a concern in light of President Trump’s hiring freeze.

“It’s unacceptable that House Republicans would jeopardize the healthcare of millions of veterans by continuing their irresponsible and shoddy late night changes to the American Health Care Act,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “It’s bad enough that this bill would already leave tens of millions of Americans without health insurance and now it’s reneging on our promise to the men and women who have served in uniform. Making it harder for veterans to afford health insurance is un-American and nonsensical. I was proud to join Senator Duckworth and my colleagues today to denounce this misguided proposal.”

“We already know that this President has a record of breaking his promises, but pushing a plan that makes it harder for millions of Veterans to get the health care they deserve after he promised to improve care for our Veterans is disgraceful,” said Senator Duckworth. “Either the President and House Republicans are intentionally sacrificing Veterans and putting them on a chopping block, or they wrote this bill so haphazardly that they don’t know what’s in it. It makes you wonder: what else don’t we know about this bill?” 

“Trumpcare would do a real disservice to our veterans and working Americans,” said Senator Jack Reed (D-RI).  “Every time Republicans rewrite and revise the bill it just gets worse and worse.  The underlying principle of Trumpcare is a massive tax cut for millionaires and higher costs and less coverage for everyone else.  The only element of Trumpcare that seems constant is the fact it would shift a heavier financial burden onto older Americans, veterans, working families, and all fifty states.  Americans deserve better.” 

“In a desperate attempt to keep AHCA from failing on the House floor, Congressional Republicans introduced a poorly thought out amendment that puts millions of veterans at risk of losing access to their current healthcare or forcing them to seek care through the VA,” added Ranking Member Tim Walz. “For many veterans and their families, AHCA will leave them with no affordable insurance options. It is absolutely shameful that some in members of the House feel so strongly about passing such a substantially unvetted health bill that they would put the health of our nation’s heroes at risk. I call on Republican colleagues to immediately address this issue before moving forward with any health care related legislation.”

Also joining Duckworth, Reed, Walz, and Kuster today were Representatives Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Mark Takano (D-CA), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Anthony Brown (D-MD) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA). 

“It is irresponsible that Republicans would rob 7 Million veterans of both the options to get care through the VA system and the option to access affordable private health plans,” said Representative Gallego. “That is a disgrace. The GOP should drop this bill immediately.”

“The potential harm the American Health Care Act inflicts on veterans across the country is inexcusable. It reflects the rushed and reckless strategy for passing this bill, and it demonstrates little understanding of how America’s 22 million veterans access health care,” said Congressman Takano. “I sincerely hope my colleagues across the aisle will take the time to understand the serious consequences their bill will have for veterans and their families, who have already sacrificed so much for the country.” 

“House Republicans are so intent on recklessly forcing their healthcare bill through Congress, that they have made their repeal of healthcare for 24 million Americans even more destructive – preventing over 7 million veterans from receiving tax credits to offset healthcare costs,” said Congressman Carbajal. “It is cruel for this legislation to leave behind millions of veterans and their families who were willing to risk their lives to defend our democracy.” 

“This amendment, which would strip health care from at least 7 million veterans, is a yet another example of how the quickly, carelessly crafted AHCA would hurt Americans,” said Congressman Panetta. “Through my experience with the Veterans Transition Center on the central coast of California, I saw firsthand how important it is for veterans to have a choice when it comes to the health care they receive. The AHCA takes away that choice.”

“As a nation, we must support our veterans in recovering from the harsh and sometimes traumatic experiences they undergo,” said Congressman Brown. “This means putting the full weight of a responsive mental health system at their disposal. The disastrous GOP repeal bill makes this impossible. Not only does TrumpCare strip millions of veterans of their ability to afford high-quality insurance, but it denies our service members of critical mental health, substance use, and behavioral health services. This is not only wrong but shameful. The rushed GOP repeal bill completely misses the mark and ignores the responsibility to safeguard and take care of our veterans, who have sacrificed so much to protect our nation.”

Full video of the press conference is available here and below.

Shea-Porter Gets Amendment To Improve Hiring At The VA, Passed In US House

American Legion-Endorsed Shea-Porter Amendment Earns Bipartisan Support 

WASHINGTON, DC— Everyone agrees the VA needs help.  Healthcare professionals at the VA are swamped. There is a shortage of qualified health professionals and this is leading to the VA’s failure to care for those who need it.

The VA’s current shortage of mental health providers causes unacceptable wait-times for veterans who need care for mental health conditions, including substance use disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and military sexual trauma.  More than 20% of veterans suffering from PTSD also suffer from substance use disorder, and 25% of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan showed signs of substance use disorder.  Between 2010 and 2015, the number of veterans suffering from opioid use disorder increased by 55%.

Yesterday, the U.S. House passed an amendment introduced by Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH01) to improve VA hiring of mental health professionals.

“The VA faces a critical shortage of mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health counselors, and peer support specialists. These providers care for our veterans with behavioral health needs that include post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, and substance use disorder. Too many of our veterans must wait to receive the mental health care we have promised to them, and some never receive needed care at all,” Shea-Porter said while offering the amendment on the House floor. “In my home state of New Hampshire, we are fighting a fentanyl, heroin and prescription opioid crisis that is disproportionately affecting the veteran community. Increasing mental health provider capacity will allow more of these veterans to enter treatment and, ultimately, recovery.”

Congressman Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health, rose to speak in support of Shea-Porter’s amendment, saying: “It’s critical that VA closely track to mental health vacancies on an ongoing basis so they can be prioritized and filled to prevent any disruptions in care to our most vulnerable veterans. I’m fully supportive of this amendment and grateful to Representative Shea-Porter for submitting it.” 

The American Legion said: “The American Legion thanks Congresswoman Shea-Porter for her amendment, which will improve veterans’ access to critical mental health services, allowing the VA to better serve those who have sacrificed for our nation.”

Shea-Porter’s amendment passed as part of H.R. 1367, a bill to improve the VA’s ability to hire and retain health providers, which would create a database to help match qualified applicants to critical open positions at the VA, facilitating faster hiring. Because of Shea-Porter’s amendment, that database will list open mental health positions if the bill becomes law, improving the VA’s ability to hire needed mental health professionals.

A former military spouse, Shea-Porter understands the challenges facing our military families and veterans. This Congress, she has cosponsored 18 bipartisan bills to improve services for veterans, including the WINGMAN Act, legislation she co-introduced and the House passed earlier this year to make it easier for certified Congressional caseworkers to assist veterans. She has been a leader in the fight to lift the harmful federal hiring freeze that is damaging the VA’s ability to provide care and limiting employment opportunities for returning veterans.

“Our veterans deserve to be treated by professionals who fully understand the veteran experience and veteran-specific mental health conditions. That is why it is so important for veterans to have the option to receive specialized mental health from VA mental health professionals who have the training that will allow them to build trust,” said Shea-Porter on the floor of the House yesterday“There is an urgent need to address this problem. Every day, 20 veterans commit suicide. MST. Opioid. PTSD. These are all crises we need to address. The time to act is now. Please vote yes on this amendment.”

Congresswoman Shea-Porter Cosponsors Bipartisan Veterans Legislation To Help Those Exposed To Agent Orange

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Shea-Porter cosponsored four pieces of bipartisan legislation to help veterans. H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Veterans Act, would make it easier for Navy veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange to receive disability compensation benefits. Shea-Porter also cosponsored H.R. 512, the WINGMAN Act, to streamline the process for constituent caseworkers to process veterans’ benefits claims. H.R. 411, the Veteran Suicide Prevention Act, would require the VA to collect new data on veterans’ suicide to better understand the causes of veteran’s suicide and identify risk factors. H.R. 488 The Military Spouse Job Continuity Act, would provide a tax credit to military spouses to offset the fees associated with transferring a professional license to a new state if a Permanent Change of Station order forces the family to relocate.

The Blue Water Navy Veterans Act corrects an unfortunate VA decision in 2002 to limit the scope of the Agent Orange Act of 1991. The Agent Orange Act allowed the VA to presume that certain illnesses were the result of Agent Orange exposure and grant disability benefits to veterans based on their service location and that presumption. In 2002, the VA began requiring veterans to prove they had “boots on the ground” orders before granting disability claims and limited the definition to infantry and riverine Navy. Many who served off the coast of Vietnam were forced to file individual claims to restore their benefits, and over 32,880 of those claims were denied from 2002 to 2009. H.R. 299 extends the presumptive coverage to veterans who served up to 12 miles off-shore of Vietnam, so they can more easily receive disability benefits for Agent Orange exposure.

“The bipartisan legislation I’ve cosponsored will make it easier for our Navy Vietnam veterans to receive disability benefits if they were exposed to Agent Orange. Too many veterans are denied benefits claims because of insufficient record keeping and unequitable rules. The Blue Water Navy Veterans Act would help solve this problem, and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this important legislation,” said Congresswoman Shea-Porter. 

Shea-Porter also cosponsored the WINGMAN Act, which grants certified Congressional staff access to the VA claims processing system in order to streamline the process for processing veterans’ casework. Currently, caseworkers that are trained and certified to view these records, must request individual documents and records from the VA, which takes time and forces the veteran to wait even longer to resolve disability claims disputes. WINGMAN would allow caseworkers to have “read-only” access to the claims processing system to speed up information sharing between VA staff and caseworkers.

“Veterans wait long enough to resolve their benefits claims; they shouldn’t be held up because of bureaucratic paperwork issues that increase the time it takes for caseworkers to review claims documents. The bipartisan legislation I cosponsored would make it easier for professional, certified Congressional caseworkers to view a veteran’s benefit claim records,” continued Shea-Porter.

Congressman Frank Guinta’s Double Speak On Supporting Veterans

“Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value,” proclaimed Vice President Joe Biden in a 2012 speech.

Vice President Biden is basically saying is that if you are not willing to pay for something you say you value, then you really don’t value it at all. This type of double speak is common among some politicians.

In New Hampshire, Congressman Frank Guinta talks a good game about his support for veterans, but in Washington, he has a long history of failing our veterans.

“Our nation’s active duty personnel and veterans risk their lives to ensure our country remains safe in the face of ever evolving threats. Our military heroes deserve the very best, and as your representative to Washington, one of my highest priorities is to protect and expand the resources, services and support available to them.

We must keep our promise to provide for those who courageously put their lives on the line to serve and protect our great country. I have always been a strong advocate for our military members and veterans in the Granite State,” wrote Guinta on his website.

We owe our veterans the benefits they’ve earned, but Frank Guinta has consistently voted against increasing funding for veterans programs.

“Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”

Just nine months ago, Guinta voted against the Omnibus Appropriations bill that funds the government. The bill increased funding for the VA by $6.4 billion. The legislation, which fortunately was not tanked by Guinta’s refusal to support it, increased funding for medical care by $4.7 billion and provided funds to hire 770 VA disability claims processors to tackle the claims backlog.   

In one fell swoop, Guinta voted to shut down the government and refused to increase funding for critical veterans programs. He even called these important funding increases “inducements to vote for more federal bloat and debt.”   

While serving on the Budget Committee this year, Guinta rejected an attempt by Congressman Seth Moulton, an Iraq war veteran, to increase funding by $340 million for FY2017 and $1.14 billion for FY2018. These increases would have been paid for raising taxes on the wealthiest and repealing tax breaks for Big Oil and corporations that ship jobs overseas.

“Frank Guinta may claim to fight for our veterans, but his votes prove that he betrays them in Congress.  His votes against increased funding for medical care, VA claims processors, and repairs to crumbling VA facilities show his dishonesty and disrespect for veterans,” said Carol Shea-Porter spokeswoman Naomi Andrews. “His Budget Committee votes place multinational corporations, billionaires, and Big Oil ahead of our obligations to our veterans. Carol Shea-Porter was a military spouse and is proud of her husband and all of America’s veterans. She looks forward to working again for our troops and our veterans in Congress.”

It seems pretty clear that Frank Guinta’s claim to be “a strong advocate for our military members and veterans” is just campaign double speak.

Congresswoman Annie Kuster, A True Fighter For America’s Veterans

Congresswoman Kuster’s Work for Veterans Praised in New Television Ad

In her second television ad of the 2016 cycle, a Nashua veteran praises Congresswoman Kuster’s work to secure affordable housing and jobs for homeless veterans in New Hampshire.  

In the ad, titled “Thank You,” John Elsten discusses his military experience and his living situation during his unemployment.  A Vietnam veteran, he was forced to sleep under bridges and in alleys in downtown Nashua after losing his job.  He was able to secure housing through the VA Supported Housing program, a rental assistance voucher program through the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, that Congresswoman Kuster has worked to expand.  While touring a shelter in Nashua, Congresswoman Kuster met John, who was living and volunteering at the shelter.  She has made expanding affordable housing for homeless veterans in Nashua, Keene, Plymouth, and throughout New Hampshire a key part of her work to support Granite State veterans.

“I was heartbroken when I heard about John’s struggle, as well as the struggles of so many veterans like him, to find affordable housing and employment,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “I fight every day to help veterans like John who have given so much to our country.  We have a solemn responsibility to support the brave men and women who have served our country, and that includes ensuring they have a roof over their head, as well as gainful employment and accessible health care.”

Click here to watch the ad

Addressing the problem of veteran homelessness is no small task. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that nearly 40,000 are homeless on any given night.  Specifically in New Hampshire, HUD estimates that there are between 123-138 homeless vets, many who are forced to live in temporary shelters.

Part of ending homelessness for our veterans in providing them with sustainable employment after they return. As the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans notes, “military occupations and training are not always transferable to the civilian workforce, placing some veterans at a disadvantage when competing for employment. NCHV strongly believes that all programs to assist homeless veterans must focus on helping them obtain and sustain employment.”

About 1.4 million other veterans “are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing,” NCHV added.

Rep. Kuster talks with student veterans and higher education administrators today in Concord.

Rep. Kuster talks with student veterans and higher education administrators in Concord.

In January of 2016, Kuster met with student veterans and higher education administrators from across New Hampshire to discuss the importance of supporting veterans as they pursue higher education following the completion of their service. This discussion allowed Congresswoman Kuster to learn more about the work being done by New Hampshire colleges to implement education benefits, as well as to hear directly from student veterans about how she can best support them through her work in Congress.

“When our brave men and women return from their service in the Armed Forces, we must ensure that they have access to the tools they need to complete their education and to compete in today’s workforce,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “During today’s conversation, we were able to bring together student veterans and representatives from some of the Granite State’s top institutions of higher education to discuss how we can help returning veterans pursue their college education here in New Hampshire. We are lucky to have such a dedicated group of higher education leaders here in the Granite State who have done an incredible job supporting veterans seeking college degrees.”

As a member of the U.S. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Kuster has long worked to ensure that veterans have access to the resources necessary to support their transition back into civilian life and to pursue higher education after completing their service. Kuster has supported legislation for student veterans throughout her time in office, including the GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2013, which proposed allowing veterans to pay in-state tuition for out-of-state schools. This legislation passed the House of Representatives, and its provisions were later passed into law as part of another bill. 

In February, Kuster was pleased to announce that three bills she cosponsored had passed in the House of Representatives.

  • H.R. 2360, the Career Ready Student Veterans Act, will help ensure that educational and training programs serving our nation’s veterans meet state accreditation standards, protecting the quality of education provided for veteran students.
  • H.R. 2915, the Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act, will direct the VA to identify suicide prevention programs that are proven to be most effective for female veterans in order to ensure the unique needs of women veterans are more effectively addressed.
  • H.R. 3036, the National 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center Act, will designate the September 11th Memorial at the World Trade Center as a national memorial, thereby awarding a grant of up to $25 million per fiscal year for the maintenance of the site.

To some politicians, taking care of our veterans is nothing more than lip service. They say they support veterans while they made deep cuts to social programs that help thousands of veterans avoid homelessness and help keep them from falling into poverty.

Congresswoman Kuster does not just talk about supporting veterans; she is fighting to ensure that we end veteran homelessness and provide the best opportunities for our veterans throughout their entire lives.

At House Veterans Affairs Committee Hearing, Kuster Highlights Efforts to Improve Health Care for Veterans

Kuster discussed legislation to reduce opioid use among veterans, increase hiring of veterans in VA medical facilitieskuster

(Washington, DC) – Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and the lead Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, took part in a hearing to discuss healthcare for veterans at the VA and how to improve access to care. The hearing focused on “The Commission on Care and the Future of the VA Healthcare System” a report mandated by the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act (VACAA) of 2014. 

During her statement, Kuster highlighted two pieces of legislation that would advance improvements to access to healthcare and treatment for veterans. Kuster discussed the Helping Our Veterans With Chronic Pain and Opioid Addiction Actwhich would establish pilot programs to facilitate the coordination of care and case management to veterans in need of chronic pain management, including veterans suffering from opioid dependency. Kuster specifically pointed out that past reliance on certain metrics for addressing pain had led to increased prescribing of opioids and that her legislation would encourage alternative methods of pain treatment.

Kuster also highlighted the Grow Our Own Directive: Physician Assistant Employment and Education Act of 2015 which would create a pilot program within the VA to provide educational assistance to former medics and corpsmen for education and training as physician assistants in the VA. 

You can watch Congresswoman Kuster’s full remarks here.

 

Veterans Blast Trump In Open Letter

Ahead of Trump Visit, More Than Fifty New Hampshire Veterans Contrast Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in Open Letter

Ahead of Donald Trump’s rally in Windham on Saturday, more than fifty New Hampshire veterans have penned an open letter contrasting Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on veterans issues and the economy. The signers call on all veterans to support Hillary Clinton because she has a plan that supports our veterans, will ensure they have the opportunities and tools they need to succeed upon returning home, and believes that our country is stronger when we stand together.

Read the letter here and below. 

Open Letter: New Hampshire Veterans Contrast Trump and Clinton Following this Pivotal Week

To all New Hampshire Veterans,

This week highlighted the stark difference between our two presidential nominees for all of us. While Hillary Clinton toured the country highlighting a jobs plan that would help reduce veteran unemployment within her first 100 days as President, Donald Trump was insulting veterans and disparaging the sacrifices of a Gold Star family.

Hillary Clinton understands the importance of investing in our veterans. Her economic plan would help to ensure that those who risk their lives have the resources they need to to find good paying jobs when they come home and the tools to start businesses of their own. That’s why she’s committed to expanding tax credits for veterans’ employment, improving the certification and credentialing programs for men and women who have served in the military, and strengthening veteran entrepreneurship programs. Clinton is clearly committed to building this economy up and putting our community on a path to a more prosperous future.

Hillary Clinton has put together a plan that an independent analyst calculated would result in the U.S. economy creating 10.4 million jobs nationally in her first term alone — contrast that with the 3.4 million jobs the same analyst found we’d lose under Trump’s plan. She would make huge and much-needed investments in our infrastructure, invest in manufacturing, create good-paying clean energy jobs, and support New Hampshire’s small businesses and the nearly 280,000 people they employ by providing tax relief and cutting red tape. That type of economic support would make a huge difference for the vets community, which struggles with high rates of unemployment.

Then, there’s Donald Trump.

Trump doesn’t have a jobs plan. What he has is a ruthless disregard for veterans’ service and a thin-skin. Not only has he repeatedly torn down veterans and trivialized their sacrifices, but he has lied about his donations to veterans’ charities, called avoiding STDs his “personal Vietnam,” fired or not hired veteran reservists due to their service commitments, and has now crossed another sacred line: he has attacked a Gold Star family for speaking out against his divisive policies. This man is not fit to serve as Commander-in-Chief.

We urge all veterans to join us in supporting Hillary Clinton. We need to send Trump a resounding message this November. And we want that message to be: in this country, we are stronger together.

Signed,

Arthur Hilson of Portsmouth, United States Navy Veteran

Barry Conway of Hampton, United States Air Force Veteran, Former Commandant of the New Hampshire State Veterans Home, Chair Emeritus of the State Veterans Advisory Committee

Bill Duncan of New Castle, United States Navy Veteran

Bill Shaheen of Madbury, United States Army Veteran

Bob Hannan of Dover, United States Air Force Veteran

Brian Vawter of Portsmouth, United States Navy Veteran

Charles Mooskian of Pelham, United States Navy Veteran

Dave Bamford of Dover, United States Army Veteran

David Huot of Bedford, United States Navy Veteran

David Perkins of Amherst, United States Army Veteran

Doug Micklon of Salem, United States Navy Veteran

Gene Porter of Rochester, United States Army Veteran

George Fleming of Barrington, United States Marine Corps Veteran

Henry Lanteigne of Berlin, United States Air Force Veteran

Jack Scarborough of Plymouth, United States Marine Corps Veteran

Janice Oskar of Exeter, United States Air Force Veteran

Jeff Ballard of Brookfield, United States Army Veteran

Jim Smith of Salem, United States Air Force Veteran

Joe Plaia of Portsmouth, Corporal, United States Marine Corps Veteran, Portsmouth Police Commissioner

John D. Hutson, Dean Emeritus of UNH School of Law, Rear Admiral Judge Advocate General United States Navy (Ret.)

John Knowles of Hudson, United States Army Veteran

Josh Denton of Portsmouth, United States Army Veteran

Ken Latchaw of Newington, United States Navy Veteran

Ken Putney of Derry, United States Navy Veteran

Len DiSesa of Dover, United States Army Veteran

LeRoy Marcroft of Weare, United States Navy Veteran

Linda Lauer of Bath, United States Navy Veteran

Lou D’Allesandro of Manchester, United States Marine Corps Reserve Veteran

Michael O’Mahony of Bow, United States Air Force Veteran

Miriam Cahill of Yeaton, United States Air Force Veteran

Ned Helms of Concord, United Staes Army Veteran

Pete McVay of Atkinson, United States Navy Reserve Veteran

Pete Stearns of Amherst, United States Army Veteran

Peter Schmidt of Dover, United States Marine Corps Veteran

Purnell Ross of Dover, United States Air Force Veteran

R. James Steiner of Concord, United States Army Veteran

Ralph Hough of Grantham, United States Army Veteran

Raymond Levesque of Boscawen, United Staes Navy Veteran

Rick Ouelette of Nashua, United States Air Force Veteran

Robert LeClair of Manchester, United States Marine Corps Veteran

Robert Porter of Claremont, United States Army National Guard Veteran

Robert Williams of Concord, United States Navy Veteran

Ronald Jones of Manchester, United States Marine Corps Veteran

Skip Clark of Portsmouth, United States Army Veteran

Stan Solomon of Albany, United States Army Veteran

Steve Shurtleff of Concord, United States Army Veteran

Sumner Bennett of Amherst, United States Army Reserve Veteran

Terence O’Rourke of Alton, United States Army Veteran

Terry Shumaker of Concord, United States Army Veteran

Val Scarborough of Plymouth, United States Marine Corps Veteran

Wayne Alterisio of Manchester, United States Army Veteran

Wayne Burton of Durham, United States Army Veteran

William Cashin of Manchester, United States Army Veteran

William Connell of Atkinson, United States Navy Veteran

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Commission on Care’s Final Report ‘Horrendous, Anti-Veteran’ Says VA Employees Union President

AFGE VA Protests

AFGE Members protesting cuts to the VA in June of 2016

AFGE President says Commission’s recommendations would dismantle the nation’s largest and best health care system, hurting veterans and exploding costs 

WASHINGTON – In response to the release of the Commission on Care’s final report on reforming the VA this week, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) National President J. David Cox, Sr. today issued the following statement:

“The American Federation of Government Employees condemns in the strongest possible terms, the horrendous, anti-veteran proposal put forward by the Commission on Care. These recommendations would essentially destroy the veterans’ health care system, leaving millions of veterans without the integrated care they rely on. Veterans would suffer from a drastically reduced quality of care, higher costs, less access, and the system as a whole would become unaccountable to veterans and taxpayers. Instead it would place veterans’ care in the hands of executives with corporate backgrounds, leaving veterans without a voice.

If the Commission’s mission, as they state in their report, was to “provide eligible veterans prompt access to quality health care,” they have achieved the opposite. The only result of these recommendations would be to fragment the most integrated health care approach in the nation, lower quality across the board by sending veterans to for-profit private providers, line the pockets of private hospital corporations, and hand over control of veterans’ healthcare to an out-of-touch, corporate-style board.

The most egregious recommendation in the report would dismantle veteran-centric care through the vast expansion of costly, for-profit provider care. The VA provides veterans the best health care in the country – something acknowledged even by this biased Commission in their final report – yet they want to push veterans out the door to lower quality, for-profit providers who will inevitably offer inferior care. As it stands now, only 13 percent of mental health providers in the private sector are properly prepared to treat our veterans.  Veterans will not be helped by having inferior care at higher costs. It is far better for veterans and taxpayers to invest in the only system tailored to veterans that is already proven to be better and has already made vast improvements.

Today veterans can walk into any VA hospital and receive seamless access to the integrated primary medical, behavioral, and specialty care provided by a system that specializes in their care. This care also includes support systems offered at the VA through financial, educational, housing, and employment support. Destroying this system in favor of fragmented, for-profit private providers creates dangerous gaps in treatment and missed opportunities to heal veterans suffering from many complex, interrelated conditions and problems.

Veterans have overwhelmingly said they want to get their healthcare at the VA. It is the only system equipped to offer the veteran-centric healing they earned through their sacrifice. That’s why large and well-respected veterans service organizations like the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans oppose further privatization of the system. We urge President Obama to reject the recommendations in this horrendously anti-veteran document.”

VA Employees Hold Dozens of Rallies Across the Country to Protest Proposed Closing of Veterans Hospitals

AFGE VA ProtestsAFGE members organize 38 rallies outside VA hospitals this week and next

WASHINGTON – Veterans Affairs employees are holding dozens of rallies outside VA hospitals this week and next to protest plans to privatize veterans’ health care and shut down VA hospitals and medical centers.

The Commission on Care, a group that was created by Congress to recommend ways of improving veterans’ health care, is close to finalizing a set of recommendations that would significantly weaken the VA’s world-class health care system and pave the way for privatization and future closures of VA medical centers, sending veterans to for-profit hospitals for care.

The rallies are being organized by the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 230,000 VA doctors, nurses, psychologists, benefits specialists, and other workers across the country who provide health care and other vital services to our military veterans.

“Even though the vast majority of veterans oppose privatizing the VA, there are many people who would benefit financially from dismantling the VA and forcing veterans into a network of for-profit hospitals and insurance companies,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr., who was a VA registered nurse for 20 years.

The Commission on Care includes four high-level private hospital executives who would profit from privatization and not a single mainstream veterans service organization. Actual veterans groups are unanimously opposed to any proposal that would privatize veterans’ health care.

“VA employees across the country are speaking out against these corrupt business interests with a clear message: it’s time to put people ahead of profits,” Cox said.

“Veterans should not be reduced to a line item on a budget sheet. They have served our country with honor and distinction, and their medical care shouldn’t be left to the whims of profiteers and claims adjusters.”

AFGE locals have organized 38 rallies to date in 19 states: Alabama, Alaska, California, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Photos from some of the rallies can be viewed by clicking here.

The VA is working hard to resolve the staffing shortages and wait times that emerged in 2014, hiring 14,000 health care workers and overhauling its patient scheduling system, Cox said. In the past two years, 97 percent of appointments in the VA were completed within 30 days, with an average wait time of 6.5 days to see a primary care doctor – compared to 19.5 days on average for non-VA patients in the private sector.

“Our country makes a solemn promise to every man and woman who volunteers to serve in our military: that they will be treated with dignity and respect when their service is complete,” Cox said.

“One of the best ways to honor our veterans is to ensure they continue to have access to specialized, quality health care through the VA’s integrated network of medical centers and clinics.”

We Are Failing To Uphold Our Promises To Veterans

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CC Filickr

Today we honor the brave men and women who answered the call and put their lives at risk to serve our country.   The unfortunate fact is that our government is not doing enough to help these veterans when they come home.

Republicans in Congress have been forcing deeper and deeper cuts to every program in the government – and that is hurting our veterans.

You would think that the party that is always looking to start another war – so their friends can make obscene profits off constructing weapons of destruction – would be the first to stand up and say “no” when it comes to cutting services that affect our veterans. Sadly, this is not the case.

Almost everyone knows of the troubles that are plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA is responsible for providing healthcare to our returning vets. VA health centers are overcrowded, under-staffed and grossly under-funded, leading to long wait times for vets, particularly those with mental diseases.

As usual, the Republicans’ answer to fixing the problems within the VA is to fire the director and gut the program’s funding. Now they are proposing an even worse idea, privatizing the entire VA Healthcare system to a for-profit contractor.

The Republicans’ style of gratitude towards veterans continues, as they make drastic cuts to every social program in the federal budget.

Programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, that provided food assistance to over 900,000 veterans in 2014.

Nearly a million veterans are living on food stamps because our returning vets face a higher than average (7.2%) unemployment rate, leading them to take dead-end low wage jobs.

Just raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would help over 1 million struggling veterans. However, the Republicans in Congress refuse to even consider the idea of raising the minimum wage – even though an increase is supported by a strong majority of Americans (71%).

What about the drastic cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development? In 2013, Republicans cut almost 9% of HUD’s overall budget. This means that millions of low-income families would not get housing assistance.

The HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) was created specifically to assist veterans in getting the housing assistance they need. Over the last eight years, HUD-VASH has given out, on average, 10,000 vouchers a year to veterans.

That may seem like a lot, but it is nowhere near enough. Too many of our veterans are still falling through the cracks and ending up homeless on the streets.

In 2014, veterans made up over 8% of the overall homeless population. Nearly 50,000 veterans found themselves homeless last year and HUD-VASH could only afford to give out 10,000 vouchers. Some gratitude.

Of the nearly 50,000 veterans that are living on the streets today, 50% of them suffer from a mental or physical disability. This brings us right back to Department of Veterans Affairs and their inability to treat the metal disorders that stem from sending our brave men and women into combat.

So while everyone else is just “Thanking veterans for their service” today, I am demanding that we do more than give the annual lip service and actually show our veterans our gratitude.

Start by raising the minimum wage, increasing funding to HUD, increasing funding to SNAP and getting more people working inside the VA to reduce wait times. That is how we honor our vets.

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