A handful of protesters held signs at the Garden Valley Boulevard entrance to the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center Thursday to express their fear that politicians at the national level are moving to privatize veterans’ health care. These local veterans, members of the Veterans for Peace, believe that would be a disaster for veterans.

Their worry stems from national news reports that VA Secretary David Shulkin may soon be replaced by a proponent of privatizing care provided at VA hospitals like the Roseburg VA.

Reportedly, President Donald Trump is considering Energy Secretary Rick Perry or “Fox and Friends” television personality Pete Hegseth for the role. Hegseth has said on television that he favors moving away from caring for veterans at VA hospitals and instead offering them private care. Hegseth is a former executive director of Concerned Veterans for America, an organization backed by billionaire businessmen Charles and David Koch.

Most veteran groups oppose privatization.

Rick Staggenborg of Roseburg, a retired VA psychiatrist, said corporate interests are behind the push to privatize as much of the VA as they can, but it’s not good for veterans.

Already, he said, the VA’s choice program, which allows veterans to seek community doctors when VA doctors aren’t readily available, is hurting the VA. Forty percent of veteran patient visits are now in the private sector.

“Think of what that money could do in the VA,” he said.

He said even though it’s a big bureaucracy, the VA still offers more service for less money than the private sector would.

He said it’s an integrated system, and when you start “stripping away the parts, the whole thing falls apart.”

Jim McNulty said he attended Thursday’s demonstration because he’s not excited about the idea of privatizing his care.

“I’m afraid the costs would go up for everyone. That’s what always happens with privatization,” he said.

McNulty, a Navy veteran who served as a radar man during the Vietnam War, recently moved to Roseburg from Reno, Nevada. He said the VA here has treated him very well.

Bob Allen of Roseburg served in the Marine Corps, then trained as a nurse, joined the Army and went to Vietnam.

He gets his care at the Roseburg VA and really appreciates it.

“I would hate to see this VA get a reduction of services or close,” he said.

Michele Avanti of Roseburg, a Vietnam-era Army veteran who served as a sergeant at a chemical and biological warfare base in Utah, said if the VA is privatized, it won’t be good for veterans’ health.

Corporations are only concerned about the bottom line, and will prioritize making money over providing veterans with good care, she said, which is a conflict of interest.

“Veterans are the last people on the planet who should be having to figure out how to pay for their medical care,” she said.

Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at 541-957-4213 or ccegavske@nrtoday.com.

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Senior Reporter

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at 541-957-4213 or by email at ccegavske@nrtoday.com. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

(8) comments

chicagomike

Veterans should be worried that one of the worst hospitals in the VA healthcare system will be shut down. it's one of the worst hospitals by design. Roseburg VA has been in the process of being systemically shut down for years. under Carol Bogedain's watch the ICU was shut down, Paxton gutted the roseburg VA of good doctors, the opening of the very large Eugene clinic has reduced the number of veterans who would otherwise receive care in Roseburg. other services benefitting veterans have been discontinued. Expect Whitmer to continue the systemic shut down of the Roseburg hospital reducing its function to that of a VA Clinic providing minimal services to veterans.

Under Whitmer's watch a Vietnam Veteran and wife were recently forced to leave the Roseburg Hospital by the VA Police rather than providing care for this veteran.
Shame on you Director Whitmer!

cpod

I agree with chicagomike. I believe that a goal has been set to shut down the Roseburg VA and they have been steadily cutting services and undercutting the staff's attempts to provide good care.

RickStaggenborgMD

I think you are being a bit too suspicious of what has been going on. There are simpler explanations for the pattern of poor management. Roseburg is a small facility that is a place for new Directors, not all of whom end up working out. It is also not a plum assignment for the cream of the crop who might have other places to work. As with providers, it is just too rural for most. Now, with its growing negative reputation, it is getting less and less desirable.

We have to hold the leaders of the Roseburg VA responsible, but we also have to recognize the limitations the VA faces in trying to fix what will always be a marginal operation unless the VA starts paying competitive salaries to its health care professionals.

ralpho

AIPAC has far more influence on VA policy than American voters. We will be going to war with Iran, soon. Trump and all his minions in their hearts, minds and souls are killers. All they need is is an agency like AIPAC to direct them who to kill. This is the reality of America, today. Wait and see.

CitizenJoe

Good for those veterans! Privatization of the VA will degrade care. I get my care at our VA, and, even with its management turmoil, I get superb care.

Privatizing public goods destroyed Russia's nascent democracy after the Soviet Union fell; now, Republicans are determined to do the same here, funneling our wealth into the coffers of a few oligarchs.

RickStaggenborgMD

It's also important to note that there are nearly 50,000 unfilled VA positions nationwide. Much of the money that is being poured into the Choice program should be put back into the VA to fund these positions and to pay competitive salaries for health professionals. If it was, we wouldn't have so many veterans needing to seek care elsewhere.

Caila

correction: regular hospitals/doctors don't always have the answers for our Veterans needs...

Caila

yeah right... nurse comes into the room of a ptsd patient and forgets to alarm the Veteran... Veteran GOES OFF !!!!!!!!! Happens all the time... Regular hspt.s and doctors don't always go together... civilians and veterans have different energies, health histories and philosophies...

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