Veterans Agency Faces Legal Backlash on Privatization

WASHINGTON (CN) – With the White House poised to privatize essential services at the Department of Veterans Affairs, an Army reservist and a Marine accused the agency in a federal complaint Monday of putting their health care in imminent danger.

Backed by the watchdog group Democracy Forward Foundation, veterans Samir Hamel and William Fischer filed their suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.   

Though the suit notes that “most veterans oppose privatization,” Hamel and Fischer note that the true crux of their “case is about who will make that decision and, more broadly, who possesses the authority to make the many day-to-day decisions regarding veterans’ benefits and care that the secretary of Veterans Affairs has to make.”

Roughly a month earlier, President Donald Trump fired via tweet the only unanimously confirmed cabinet secretary in this administration, David Shulkin.

Several hours after firing Shulkin, Trump appointed Robert Wilkie of the Department of Defense to step in as acting secretary of Veterans Affairs.

But Hamel and Fischer note that the position should have fallen to Deputy Secretary Thomas Bowman as a matter of law.

“Former Secretary Shulkin’s dismissal was preceded by months of plotting by administration officials, motivated by disagreements about how far and how fast to privatize health care for veterans, a long-sought goal for conservatives like the Koch brothers,” the complaint states.

Discussing the case in an interview, Democracy Forward attorney John Lewis emphasized that “both Shulkin and his deputy were against privatization.”

“We don’t see it as an accident that they pulled Wilkie from another department,” Lewis added.

Monday’s suit accuses Trump of ignoring the congressional checks on his power and violating the U.S. Constitution. 

“What distinguishes the care provided by the VA from other forms of health coverage is that the VA generally provides health care directly to enrolled veterans, rather than by contracting with private parties, like a typical private health insurer,” the complaint states.

Hamel and Fischer say they are concerned that privatization will disrupt their care and increase costs.

The suit seeks an injunction against Wilkie and an order declaring that Bowman is the lawful acting secretary.

Representatives for the VA did not respond to a request for comment.

%d bloggers like this: