The Koch Brothers (Still) Want To Privatize The VA

June 3, 2016

The Koch brothers try to hide the truth, but they want to privatize the VA. For the latest evidence, look no further than a recent blog post from director of health policy studies at the Koch-funded Cato Institute. In series of recent tweets and an op-ed for Forbes, Cato’s health policy studies director Michael Cannon forcefully endorses the total privatization of the VA,arguing that even voucherization is insufficient.

Meanwhile, the Kochs’ veterans front group that works against veterans, Concerned Veterans for America, is still trying to keep its VA privatization agenda under wraps. Why? Because real veterans groups are staunchly opposed to privatization, and for CVA to come out in support of it would mean conceding that its a politically-purposed sham front group for the Koch agenda. CVA claims that accusations that it wants to privatize veterans health care are unfounded, but the truth’s out there: the Koch group’s pro-privatization agenda has been certified true by a CNN fact check. CVA softening its language from “privatizing health care for vets” to “changing care for vets” is meaningless semantics.

So even as CVA superficially denies wanting VA privatization, the group is simultaneously standing alongside the Koch’s think tank, Cato Institute, in advocating for privatized health care for veterans.

Concerned Veterans for America Can’t Deny That The Kochs Aim To Privatize The VA

CVA Claims To Be Misrepresented When They Are Labeled As Advocating For VA Privatization…

Concerned Veterans For America Vice President For Political And Legislative Action Dan Caldwell Accused Hillary Clinton And Bernie Sanders Of Denigrating And Misrepresenting His Organization When They Said That CVA Advocated Privatizing The VA. According to an op-ed by Concerned Veterans for America vice president for political and legislative action Dan Caldwell for the Hill, “Unfortunately, the leading Democratic candidates—Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—spent a debate earlier this month avoiding discussion of meaningful change for this failing federal agency. Rather than focus on the issues, they denigrated and misrepresented my organization and other supporters of reforming the VA, saying we in effect advocated privatizing the VA.” [Dan Caldwell – The Hill, 2/17/16]

…Yet They Have Explicitly Been Called Out For Seeking Privatization

CNN: CVA Promotes Privatizing The VA. According to CNN, “Discussing the need for reforms improving access to care at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Sanders said that a group funded by the Koch brothers is promoting the privatization of the agency. An organization called Concerned Veterans for America is sanctioned by the influential conservative siblings, Sanders said. […] Sanders is correct in describing the group’s Koch lineage and its intent. Our verdict is true.” [CNN, 2/5/16]

CVA Recommended Converting The Current “VHA Integrated Health Care System” Into A Government-Chartered Non-Profit Corporation. According to a press release from Concerned Veterans for America, “The Veterans Independence Act would make four key reforms to the delivery of veterans health care: 1. Separate the VHA’s payor and provider functions and convert the current VHA integrated health care system into a government-charted [sic] nonprofit corporation.” [Concerned Veterans For America Press Release, 2/26/15]

Health Care Journalist And Author Suzanne Gordon: Several Members Of The Commission On Care Including CVA’s Include Darin Selnick Have Been “Secretly Meeting To Draft A Proposal To Totally Eliminate The Veterans Health Administration By 2035 And Turn Its Taxpayer-Funded Functions Over To The Private Sector.” According to a blog post by award-winning health care journalist and author Suzanne Gordon from the American Prospect blog, “Several members of the [Commission on Care] learned that seven of their colleagues had been secretly meeting to draft a proposal to totally eliminate the Veterans Health Administration by 2035 and turn its taxpayer-funded functions over to the private sector. Those commissioners dubbed the plan ‘The Strawman Document.’ The authors of the Strawman Document insist that the VHA is so ‘seriously broken’ that ‘there is no efficient path to repair it.’ Although the commission’s work is supposed to be data-driven and done by the all the commissioners together, the faction meeting independently of the full commission has ignored many of the studies that indicated that treatment at the VHA is often better and more cost-effective than the care available in the private sector. It is not surprising that the Strawman group has chosen to ignore this research—its members have a vested interest in dismantling the VHA. The Strawman authors include Darin S. Selnick, a part-time employee of the Koch-funded group Concerned Veterans for America, as well as Stewart M. Hickey, a former leader of Amvets, a group that broke away from a coalition of large veterans service organizations because of its support for Concerned Veterans’  interest in dismantling  the VHA.” [Suzanne Gordon – American Prospect blog, 3/25/16]

Meanwhile, The Koch’s Think Tank, Cato Institute, Has Openly And Unapologetically Pushed For Privatization

Cato Institute Senior Fellow Michael Tanner: Privatizing The VA Is Such “A Horrible Thing Because… Why” According to a blog post by Cato Institute senior fellow Michael Tanner, “If you listen to Democratic campaign ads in Colorado, Nevada, or Delaware, among other places, you will discover yet another perfidious plot by evil Republicans — they want to ‘privatize the VA.’ Which makes one respond, ‘This is a horrible thing because … why?’”[, 10/20/10]

Cato Institute Vice President For Legal Affairs Roger Pilon: It Would Be Far Better For The Government To Stay Out Of The Business Of Actually Providing Veterans Health Care And Leave It To Private Individuals And Institutions. According to a blog post by Cato Institute vice president for legal affairs Roger Pilon for Cato’s At Liberty Blog, “Of all the Obama administration’s scandals—Benghazi, IRS/tea party, AP/Fox News, the near daily rewrite of Obamacare, and more—perhaps none is as telling as the unfolding VA Hospital debacle, now reaching seven states, with officials in the Albuquerque, New Mexico, hospital busy destroying records to cover their tracks, we learn today from the Daily Beast. And it isn’t simply because the outrage over the VA scandal, unlike with the others, is bipartisan that the scandal is so telling. No, it’s telling because it says so much about what’s wrong with the president’s political vision. […] The lesson is clear: Even in those cases where there’s a credible argument for the government to be involved with a service, it’s far better for it to stay out of the business of actually providing the service—far better to leave it to private individuals and institutions to provide it through the competitive markets that reason and experience tell us will ensure both liberty and efficiency. This latest scandal, if we learn the right lesson from it, may be a blessing in disguise.” [, 5/19/14]

Cato Institute Research Associate Charles Hughes: “Even If The VA Was Competently Run, There Are Better Ways To Serve The Health Care Needs Of Our Veterans.” According to a blog post by Cato Institute research associate Charles Hughes for Cato’s At Liberty Blog, “Even if the VA was competently run, there are better ways to serve the health care needs of our veterans. My colleague Michael D. Tanner has proposed some practical reforms, while Michael F. Cannon and Christopher A. Preble have offered a new approach to veterans’ benefits.” [, 9/4/15]

Cato Institute Director Of Health Policy Studies Michael Cannon Forbes Op-Ed Headline: “Johnson And Weld Are Right, Clinton Is Wrong: Congress Should Privatize The VA.” [Michael Cannon – Forbes, 6/2/16]

Cato Institute Director Of Health Policy Studies Michael Cannon: Vouchers Would Not Go Far Enough In VA Reform As They Would “Preserve The Worst Part Of The VA: Lack Of Prefunding”. According to a tweet from Cato Institute Director of Health Policy Studies Michael Cannon, “Since vouchers would not privatize the insurance function, they would preserve the worst part of the VA: lack of prefunding. @WhelanHealth.” [Michael Cannon – Twitter, 6/2/16]

  • Cannon: It’s “Better To Privatize Both Veterans Health Insurance And Health Care Delivery Functions.” According to a tweet from Cato Institute Director of Health Policy Studies Michael Cannon, “For many reasons, better to privatize both @VeteransHealth’s insurance and HC delivery functions. @WhelanHealth.”[Michael Cannon – Twitter, 6/2/16]

Paid for by American Bridge 21st Century Foundation