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Roe claims VA privatization column was 'fake news'

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe • May 10, 2018 at 5:15 AM

Recently, this paper ran an editorial with an alarmist headline criticizing me for what the author claims is an attempt to privatize the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The author is entitled to her right to free speech, but the paper should ensure its readers have the facts instead of scaring their readers with fake headlines.

Here are the facts: since 1998, VA’s budget has increased from $42.38 billion to nearly $200 billion in fiscal year 2018. In the same period of time, the number of employees at VA has increased from roughly 240,000 to over 385,000. In President Trump’s fiscal year 2019 budget request, the president requested an additional $12.1 billion over fiscal year 2018 for the department. If this is the paper’s definition of privatization, what is their definition of investing in the VA? I’m glad we are investing in our veterans, who deserve nothing but the best care possible.

As our state’s former senator likes to say, here’s an inconvenient truth: Veterans have died in places like Phoenix waiting for health care because of systemic bureaucratic flaws in the VA. The bipartisan Commission on Care — which put a report together during the Obama administration — recommended that ensuring veterans’ access to care in the community is essential to improving the VA.

As the author herself notes, I have said repeatedly that I oppose privatizing VA. My position is clear, and if you don’t take my word for it, take the word of the more than three dozen Veterans Service Organizations who just endorsed my bipartisan, bicameral health care bill, the VA Mission Act of 2018, which will improve the VA and make sure veterans receive the timely access to quality care they deserve.

All of us — Republicans, Democrats and independents — should put party labels aside and ensure veterans receive the best care possible, with a VA that puts the veteran first. That’s what I’ve done since being elected to represent East Tennessee, and it continues to be one of the greatest honors I have as chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Editor’s Note: Congressman Roe is responding to a Community Voices column submitted by Johnson City resident and health care advocate Judy Garland, not a Johnson City Press editorial as stated. There is a distinct difference between the two.

Community Voices columns provide a platform for local writers and represent a variety of personal and political perspectives. Like the varied nationally syndicated columns and letters to the editor we publish, Community Voices columns are solely the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official positions of the Johnson City Press.

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