Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Privatizing Walter Reed: Rich Get Richer, Veterans Get Screwed

I've never understood the premise of privatization. Why does adding a profit motive to a third party improve government services? Answer: It doesn't. It just allows private companies to pay workers less and give them poorer benefits to do the same job, then transfers the cost savings into the pockets of the owners of the private company. And some of those companies also cut the numbers of workers doing the work. Like IAP Worldwide, which has replaced 300 federal support services workers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center with 50 private employees. The result? Dan Quayle, John Snow and Al Neffgen get richer. Who got poorer? The workers who now work for IAP don't make the wages of federal workers, and don't have equivalent benefits. But most horrifying, the maimed and brain-damaged soldiers at Walter Reed are suffering because our government chose to put money into the pockets of their rich friends rather than put money into caring for the veterans injured in their immoral, illegal war. Sickening.

Metrowest Daily News (Framingham, MA): Editorial: Privatizing Walter Reed

As a letter from the House committee investigating Walter Reed stated, "it would be reprehensible if the deplorable conditions were caused or aggravated by an ideological commitment to privatize government services regardless of the costs to taxpayers and the consequences for wounded soldiers.

The thread of privatization and cronyism runs through this administration's disasters: from Abu Ghraib, where private contractors had a role in intelligence-gathering, to New Orleans, where a major city paid the price after political appointees replaced experienced emergency service professionals at FEMA.

Palm Beach (FL) Post editorial: Failures at Walter Reed expose VA system failure

Incredibly, despite the rising numbers of those who will need care, the White House is proposing a VA budget that is essentially flat from last year. The administration wants to cut money for prosthetic research and provide inadequate financing for the backlog of cases that only will grow. Yet on Tuesday, Mr. Bush called on Congress to "fund our war fighters." Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson, whose "qualification" was running the Republican National Committee, has compounded the administration's indifference with insulting rhetoric. Asked about the 200,000-plus who have tried to get care, Mr. Nicholson says, "A lot of them come in for dental problems."

YahooNews: Deborah Burger, HuffPo: We're All at Walter Reed

It starts with brutally substandard care and abandonment of tens of thousands of veterans, not just at Walter Reed, but at VA hospitals and clinics around the country, as the Washington Post has revealed in ghastly detail.

Second, starving the VA. Since 2001, as Paul Krugman reported in the New York Times, federal allocations for veterans medical care lag behind overall healthcare spending, rather stunning when you consider we have sent 1.5 million of our young men and women to Iraq and Afghanistan and over 184,000 have sought VA care after serving.

There's more. Due to funding cuts, some 263,257 veterans were denied enrollment for Veterans Administration health coverage in 2005. To cut costs, enrollment has been suspended for those deemed not having service-related injuries or illnesses. So much for the guarantee of lifetime healthcare. And, if all the other indignities were not enough, some Walter Reed patients had to buy their own meals.

The final piece of this unholy troika is privatization. As the Army Times notes, Walter Reed handed a five-year $120 million contract to a private company run by an ex-Halliburton executive. The contracting out of support services was followed by a mass exodus of support personnel.

Christian Science Monitor: How decay overtook Walter Reed
The problems at the US Army hospital show how strained military resources have become.


Monkeyman said...

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Monkeyman said...

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truth said...

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