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Utah Vets Oppose Rumors Of Privatized Health Care After VA Shakeup

Erik Neumann / KUER
Lee Sanchez and Tom Montez attended the National Vietnam War Veterans Day event at the Utah State Capitol.

President Trump fired the Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin Wednesday night, the latest personnel change in his cabinet. At a Vietnam War Veterans day event today, Utah vets talked about what they think of the change and how it could affect the hospitals where they receive health care.

VA Secretary David Shulkin wrote an op-ed in the New York Times, describing how he had been pushed out over disagreements to privatize the VA.

“I am convinced that privatization is a political issue aimed at rewarding select people and companies with profits, even if it undermines care for veterans,” Shulkin wrote.

After a veteran’s celebration at the Utah State Capitol, Vietnam vet Tom Montez expressed his concerns about more privatized care within the VA. Montez works at VA hospital and gets medical care there, too.

"If you have a veteran that has PTSD and he goes for anger management with a private psychiatrist, that psychiatrist doesn’t understand all the nuances that affects the veteran and his PTSD," Montez said. 

Nationally, the VA has come under fire in recent years for long wait times and mismanagement. But for vets like Jim Welch, who oversees ten American Legion posts in the area, the local VA provides good care. Welch is also opposed to efforts to privatize services.

Credit Erik Neumann / KUER
Jim Welch is the District 8 Commander of the American Legion. He is opposed to privatized care at the VA.

"I think it should stay under the auspices of the government and be run by the people," Welch said. 

Dennis Howland was also at the Capitol. He’s the president of the Utah chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America. He supports the new VA Secretary, White House physician Ronny Jackson, since he’s the president’s choice.

"Until he proves himself not worthy of our support, we will continue to support him," Howland said. 

But, he said, if the new secretary lets them down, his group will be one of the first to say he needs to go.

Erik Neumann is a radio producer and writer. A native of the Pacific Northwest, his work has appeared on public radio stations and in magazines along the West Coast. He received his Bachelor's Degree in geography from the University of Washington and a Master's in Journalism from UC Berkeley. Besides working at KUER, he enjoys being outside in just about every way possible.
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