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U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) smiles as he talks to reporters after a Republican Senate caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington October 16, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
The glee Republicans are experiencing these days over the scandal in the Veterans Administration medical system is palpable, not just because it gives them another excuse to criticize President Obama, but because it's a big opportunity for their favorite project: Privatization. Sen. John McCain writes in the Wall Street Journal, "Continuing to require that [veterans] rely on a system riddled with dysfunction, while waiting for broader reform, is patently unacceptable."

So here's their chance, they think. They can call for veterans to receive care in private facilities, which the government would pay for. Eventually, as more and more patients go elsewhere, the existing hospitals and clinics could get less and less funding and eventually go away. And just like seniors hate the idea of privatizing Social Security and Medicare, veterans  don't want it.

Veterans advocates worry any form of privatization would hurt the VA system. If veterans opted to use private facilities instead of those the VA operates, federal officials could decide that the public system isn't covering as many patients and therefore doesn't need as much money. [...]

Another concern: hospitals that see the general public won't have the expertise to treat the specific issues plaguing veterans.

A typical VA patient "might have a spinal cord injury, plus an orthopedic issue, plus a mental health issue. They're a multifaceted patient," Carl Blake of Paralyzed Veterans of America explains. "The VA is a system constructed to provide holistic care for the life of that patient. The private system is not constructed with those ideas in mind."

That's particularly the case with veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who have come home with injuries that few civilians experience and which the VA has learned to treat out of necessity. Veterans organizations say they're fine with the idea of some private care referrals for specialized care that might not be available in the local VA facility, but not as an excuse to undermine the VA system.

Clearly, the actual care of veterans isn't the primary concern of Republicans. If it was, they wouldn't have filibustered a bill that would have expanded healthcare and education for veterans. If Republicans cared about veterans, they wouldn't refuse to expand Medicaid, keeping more than 250,000 veterans from getting health care at all. It's not the veterans they care about, it's all that money being spent on a government program.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Wed May 28, 2014 at 03:48 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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