Press Release
Press Release

Veterans’ health care threatened by privatization, VA staff pressure

“Our bottom line concern is for the patients, our community’s veterans,” said Pam Fendt, president of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council. 

By - Nov 11th, 2019 02:07 pm

The health care of America’s veterans is being threatened and degraded by moves to privatize their care, coupled with deteriorating working conditions, short staffing, and other pressures on the Veterans Affairs (VA) health workers who care for them, veterans and union representatives said in a Veterans Day news conference in front of the Milwaukee VA hospital.

“Our bottom line concern is for the patients, our community’s veterans,” said Pam Fendt, president of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council. “We are concerned about the number of dismissals at Milwaukee VA, some of which seem to be targeted to union members. We are concerned about 339 unfilled posts. The Milwaukee VA seems to be whole-heartedly applying Trump administration executive orders that will destabilize federal worker protections.”

Mark Foreman, a former Navy hospital corpsman attached to the Marines in Vietnam, was severely wounded and permanently disabled.” I’ve spent a lot of time in the VA, as well as private hospitals over the past 53 years, and I’ve seen how the VA has evolved into an amazing healthcare system. I much prefer using VA hospitals over private hospitals. I oppose privatization because I don’t want to see anything happen that will hurt the excellent care I receive.”

“By the VA’s own admission, the quality of care in this Milwaukee VA hospital has dropped from 4 to 3 stars over the past 4 years,” Jamie Lucas, executive director of the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Care Professionals,” said. “It likely retains those 3 stars because of the skill, compassion, and professionalism of the nurses and health professionals inside. When a veteran says they love this hospital, it’s because of the quality of care they received here and the way their healthcare professionals made them feel.”

“On today of all days, we need to demand better for these Veterans and for these nurses,”Lucas said. Our demands are that the Milwaukee VA:

-Immediately and publicly commit to partnering with our union nurses and health professionals by refusing to implement the presidential executive orders, thereby preserving their right to advocate for each other and their patients;

-Increase staffing levels;

-Support the voice of nurses in their practice by inviting genuine collaboration and communication rather than stifling differences of opinion;

-Actively work to diversify nursing and hospital management so that administration is more reflective of the healthcare staff;

-Hold management and administration accountable to the ICARE values;

-Support the departments who are overworked and in need of assistance rather than implement discipline.

“The changes required to improve this hospital are systemic. Individual nurses should not be scapegoated,” Lucas said. “The answer to improving the quality of care and better serving Veterans is not to dismantle and privatize this system; the answer is to invest in the things that make this system great – the nurses, the health professionals, the researchers, and the federal network of care. This is how we save the VA.”

Donald Evans, an Army veteran who is an organizer for the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents VA workers, said:

“When our soldiers came home, after fighting for our flag, after spending months in the desert, after living in a foxhole, after low crawling under 50 caliber live fire, when those soldiers came home, they were shell shocked.  Some soldiers were missing arms and legs.  Some soldiers came home with PTSD and other mental ailments.

“And now they are being told to go to another hospital because they want to privatize the VA. They are being denied treatment for their service-connected disabilities. 

“My VA benefits are not an entitlement.  I earned that. Providing service to disabled veterans is not a privilege. It’s an obligation. When I joined the Army, I signed a contract between me and the United States government .

“We veterans fulfilled our part of the contract, and now they are trying to breach the contract by kicking us veterans to the curb. HELL NO!!! We won’t go!”

Concerned Citizens for Veterans’ Healthcare
**Milwaukee Area Labor Council **
 Milwaukee Veterans For Peace **
**Wis. Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals Local 5000 **
** American Federation of Govt Employees Local 3 **

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