CHEYENNE – Concern over Congress privatizing Veterans Affairs health-care services led local union members and military veterans to protest near Cheyenne’s VA Medical Center Wednesday morning.
A couple dozen people stood on either side of Pershing Boulevard near the roundabout at Converse Avenue beginning at about 7 a.m.
They waved small American flags and held blue signs with gold lettering that read, “Veterans for a Strong VA,” “Staff the VA” and “VA Workers for a Strong VA.”
“Any level of privatization they’re trying to do … really isn’t that smart,” said Glen Massan, the first vice president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 1014.
Massan, an Air Force veteran who uses the Cheyenne VA, said the VA is specially designed to deal with issues military personnel face, like post-traumatic stress disorder.
“The VA is specifically suited to take care of these people,” he said.
If the system is privatized, he said, there is concern that level of care will be lost.
Further, Massan said there is concern that portability, or the ability for military veterans to use VA facilities nationwide, could disappear.
Talk of privatizing VA medical services has come up at the federal level through the years, including this year.
The Commission on Care, a panel created by Congress to analyze the services provided by the VA, has been studying the issue for several months – including privatization.
The panel issued its final report Tuesday, which recommended overhauling the VA system and expanding access to private health care, but not full privatization, according to the Federal Times and the Wall Street Journal.
The national American Federation of Government Employees is opposed to privatization, and the protest in Cheyenne was part of a national effort led by the union.
Glen Chavez, who helps lead Cheyenne AIM (Appreciates Its Military), assisted with organizing the protest.
“We made a promise to our vets, we’re going to take care of them,” he said. “Our promise to them is they’re going to have a place to go.”
Chavez also said care for military veterans should not be operated by corporations.
“They’re not supposed to make a profit off this,” he said.