Across the nation groups have been rallying in opposition to plans to privatize the VA and turn the VA into a payer for medical care while veterans would be left to fend for themselves at for-profit healthcare organizations.
The VA Commission on Care released its final report to Congress calling for the dismantling of the Veterans Healthcare System within 20 years - what would basically be a vast expansion of the failed Choice Act; funding which has left veterans battling doctors offices over fees not covered by the VA and medical providers searching in vain for complete healthcare records for their veteran patients.
There is one group, however, who stands to lose much more by entering private sector healthcare: LGBT veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs proudly serves LGBT Veterans and has put into place programs which instruct staff on how to provide culturally competent care for these groups. Additionally VA does not discriminate against any group, for any reason. This non-discrimination is enshrined in federal law.
However in a few states across the nation lawmakers are passing state-level laws allowing healthcare professionals to refuse to care for people who are LGBT. This type of "religious exemption" discrimination threatens the health, safety and lives of patients. If LGBT veterans no longer had access to care at the VA, they would be forced to seek care in the community - and in some communities that could mean putting their health and lives on the line. This would lead to poor outcomes for this group and would be a betrayal of our country's promise to care for those who have born the battle.
While the VA may not be perfect, neither is our nation. Please join with me in building a more perfect union and rally with us to create a more perfect VA.
Travis Riggs is the PRIDE Coordinator for AFGE District 11 and a local president for AFGE Local 1273 at the Boise VA.