The Week, March 30, 2016
by Ryan Cooper, National correspondent
Veterans have long been breaking new ground for American social programs. A pension program for Civil War vets was the first national-level welfare program of any kind. Today the Department of Veterans Affairs runs the most socialized part of the U.S. health care system — like Britain's NHS, the Veterans Health Administration is both single-payer and single-provider, where the government owns and operates the hospitals.
The VA has always had a somewhat uncomfortable existence, poised between America's instinctive hero-worship of the military and its traditional love of private business and markets. Until quite recently, veteran worship won out even among conservatives, who would criticize the VA but stop short of dismantling it for fear of insufficient levels of Supporting The Troops.
No longer. Now most conservatives in Congress, prompted in large part by a Koch brothers-funded astroturf group, are gunning for veterans' health care. They want American vets dumped onto the private market, where they will unquestionably receive worse care than they currently do.
The Washington Monthly (full disclosure: where I previously worked) has the goods, in a cover story investigation of the campaign against the VA. The major organization behind the push is the Concerned Veterans for America, a group purporting to represent the hordes of veterans who have been harmed by the VA and want it privatized. In reality, it's an astroturf campaign funded by the Koch brothers, who have an unshakable hatred of all government welfare programs. But all the major veterans service organizations — such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars — do not want privatization, and the VA consistently ranks highly in satisfaction surveys.