It’s no secret that the Koch Brothers want to do away with the Veteran’s Affairs healthcare program and replace it with a for-profit version- along with the rest of America’s public institutions. But what isn’t widely known is the way they’ve exploited last year’s list-rigging scandal to take a huge swing at VA worker’s rights- and, consequentially, cripple the VA’s ability to function entirely.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Jeff Miller (R-FL) have each introduced a bill (S. 1082 and H.R. 1994) to remove all job security from the workers at the VA. All employees- from doctors to bedpan interns- could be fired at any time without consequence or oversight. At first glance, it might seem benign, considering what the VA just went through- but if you dig a little deeper, it soon becomes disturbingly clear that there is more at play here- since when do Republicans ever want more government oversight?
Behind the movement to pass these bills is a group called Concerned Veterans of America (CVA), who are funded by- you guessed it- Charles and David Koch, America’s oligarchs. While pretending to represent veterans interests, they in fact are just another part of the Kochtopus, the network of groups like Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and the American Legislative Council (ALEC) or the other seventy-plus groups that are worming their devious tentacles into American politics.
Jon Soltz, a co-founder of the VoteVets group, issued a scathing condemnation of the CVA’s underhanded efforts to dismantle and privatize our veterans’ care:
The group promotes proposals that are extremely conservative in nature, and indeed, often opposed by every major Veterans Service Organization (VSO). Whether it is their plan to privatize the Department of Veterans Affairs or to move Military Retirement to a private 401(k)-type system, Concerned Veterans for America stands strongly opposed to what nearly every major veterans group has worked so hard for. In this way, Concerned Veterans for America is a piece of the movement pushing the radical conservative agenda embraced by the Kochs and others. That agenda is the dismantling of any and all government programs that help care for people (even if those people fought for us in uniform) in order to reward the richest of the rich, corporations, and Wall Street.
While the Veterans Administration is certainly far from perfect, they might be able to perform better if Congress would give them the resources they need to succeed. The VA is short some 41,500 employees, forcing the agency to refer patients to private doctors, and leaving the agency with a $2.6 billion shortfall.
However, the Daily Kos reported that Representative Mark Takano (D-CA) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have filed their own bills in response (H.R. 2999 and S. 1856)- ones that would properly address the issues facing the VA while maintaining stronger accountability over the agency and its inner workings.
The Republican Party makes a sport out of lauding our armed forces and elevating our veterans on a pedestal, but then discarding them as soon as their political use is expended. From their constant attempts to privatize veterans healthcare, removing federal protections that shield our servicemen from predatory lending agencies, to denying benefits to LGBT servicemen, and their relentless efforts to provoke fruitless wars with foreign nations, it’s very clear that they care as little for our veterans as they do for the rest of the American people. Rubio and Miller are just foolish pawns in a much bigger game. The Koch Brothers want to remake our nation into a hypercapitalist dystopia and undo everything that our nation stands for. Our veterans have put it all on the line for our nation; the very least we can do is take proper care of them afterwards.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.