President Donald Trump hands a pen to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie during a spending bill signing ceremony at VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System, Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, in Las Vegas. (Associated Press/Evan Vucci)
The Trump administration wants to shift billions of dollars from government-run veterans' hospitals to private health care providers. That's true even though earlier this year the administration vehemently denied it would privatize any part of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The privatization of essential government services is nothing new, of course. Over the years, countries have privatized dozens of services and activities that were once the sole domain of governments, such as the provision of electricity and water, road operations and prisons and even health care, with the ostensible aim of making them more efficient.
But before going down that road, the question needs to be asked whether privatizing essential human services such as those for military veterans serves the public interest. New research we recently published suggests that privatization may come at a social cost.
Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus urged Congress in an interview with Fox News on Monday to make good on its "sacred obligation" to support the growing number of veterans sickened by exposure to burn pits at U.S military bases abroad.
This afternoon the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will hold its nomination hearing for Robert Wilke to be the new VA Secretary. The challenges facing whoever becomes the next VA secretary are many and they are wicked. Among the most challenging issues the new secretary will face is the requirement to manage the political environment around the idea of increasing the privatization of veteran healthcare. (Recently the term “privatization” has fallen out of the lexicon in favor of a more focus-group approved term, “community care”.)