In late December, then-President-elect Donald Trump met with health care leaders around the U.S. at his resort in Florida to discuss the possibility of radically changing the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system. One option was to partially privatize it, meaning veterans would have the option to receive care at a VA facility or a provider of their choosing.
"Proponents of privatization say it'll improve veterans care because they could access better quality care quicker."
Proponents for this measure say that it'll improve veterans care because they could potentially access better quality care quicker. By being able to choose which provider they receive treatment from, they could avoid VA health centers, the quality of which may be questionable. USA Today recently reported that the VA has a secret rating system that indicates its highest- and lowest-performing health centers.
Former VA Undersecretary for Health – now the department's leader under the Trump administration – David Shulkin said this "rating system" is more of an "internal improvement tool." However, as you can imagine, releasing this information to the public would help veterans make more informed decisions about where they receive care. Trump's proposal to privatize or partially privatize the VA could help service members sidestep this issue completely.
Opponents of privatization believe that doing so could weaken the VA, according to Bloomberg.
Former VA Secretary Bob McDonald recently told The Wall Street Journal that veterans suffer from a variety of injuries and therefore want a doctor or provider who is familiar with their specific ailments and can treat them accordingly.
"Veterans suffer very specific illnesses and injuries that come from the battlefield and that come from service and they tend to be multiple in nature," said McDonald. "Veterans want a doctor, or want a provider, who understands these illnesses and these injuries and knows how to deal with them and deals with them every day."
In a sense, McDonald captured the essence of what the VA is supposed to be in the eyes of veterans and many Washington and VA officials. The question that remains is how will the department exceed those expectations in the future. Will it be through a similar system of governing, or a more privatized one that allows veterans to access care of out the VA network?