Ohio veterans concerned over possible privatization of the VA

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Army veteran Keith Stevens spent a year in Vietnam and retired from the military as a Specialist.

Today, he relies on the Department of Veterans Affairs and says privatizing it would be catastrophic.

“I just hope they get somebody that knows what they’re doing and don’t privatize the VA,” said Stevens.

That is exactly what some in Washington D.C. are trying to do as former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin claims.

According to Shulkin, he was fired for standing in the way of political forces within the Trump Administration that want to privatize the VA.

Trump announced he would make Shulkin his Secretary of Veterans Affairs while he was still President-Elect calling him an “incredibly gifted doctor.”

Shulkin was the undersecretary for the department under President Barack Obama.

Since Shulkin left the department veterans groups have grown more and more concerned about the possibility of the VA being privatized, thanks in part to claims Shulkin made.

Those fears resonate here in Ohio which has a large veteran community.

“If they privatize you’re gonna end up with people that are civilians; not that there is anything wrong with civilians doing things; but I don’t think the empathy will be there,” said retired Army Col. Iris Foster-DeNieuwe.

That feeds into fears the VA will become like private endeavors where the bottom line is more important than anything else, including the health outcomes of the veterans they are supposed to be serving.

Veterans are apprehensive they could see staffing changes and longer wait times as a result of privatization as well.

United States Senator for Ohio Sherrod Brown met with veterans in Columbus Friday.

Brown told them, no matter who the President taps to be his Secretary for Veterans Affairs they will have to make him believe they have backbone. 

“A commitment from [them] that [they] will stand strong in opposition to privatizing the VA,” said Brown.

Stevens claims if the department is privatized a lot of veterans are going to be in trouble and a lot of them are going to be mad too.

He warns, “You don’t want to get no veterans mad at you.”

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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