Act would greatly benefit veterans

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One thing we can all agree on in today’s divisive political climate is that the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system is broken. We have great doctors, nurses and staff who serve in the VA but the system itself needs major reform.

A broken system means that the men and women who served and risked their lives to protect our freedoms and liberties are being denied their basic right to life and happiness that should be afforded to all Americans, by being asked to wait months to receive medical care from the government they sacrificed to defend. If we continue with the delay and deny system, some of our veterans will die waiting for health care.

I want our veterans to have the freedom to use the benefits they earned serving in the military in the private sector, as opposed to waiting months for care from the bureaucratically bogged-down government entity known as the VA. To many of us this would seem like a relatively simple bipartisan decision but unfortunately, once again, politics is taking precedent over our great veterans.

It is clear that many of the politicians fighting so fiercely against VA choice are those that have received large campaign contributions and political support from the unions that represent, not our veterans, but the hundreds of thousands of employees that work for the VA. If the VA was working the way it was intended to, and veterans were not suffering there would be no issue. Unfortunately, we have reached a point where the bureaucracy is fighting against the interests of the people it was created to represent in a battle for their own self-preservation.

We rely on our government officials to balance the interest of those represented by an agency with the workers who allow the agency to function. I am proud to work with numerous veterans organizations in Montana to promote and advance the freedom that our troops fought for. This is the sacred obligation of civilians that have been served honorably by our nations finest.

The VA Mission Act would establish permanent, streamlined “Veterans Community Care Programs” to provide veterans with access to health care and services in their own communities. Under this legislation, a veteran and his or her doctor will decide where that veteran will receive care, taking into consideration the veterans healthcare needs and the availability and qualify of both VA and community care. American Legion, VFW, DAV, VVA Concerned Veterans for America, and AmVets all support the Mission Act. It is time to act and deliver this bill to President Trump.

Competition is the great equalizer in any free market society. When the VA has no competition in the private sector they have no reason to improve the services they provide. If you don’t like your doctor as a private citizen you can go to a different doctor using your healthcare benefits. Our veterans sadly do not have that choice and thus the VA has no incentive to improve. By allowing our veterans the opportunity to seek care in the private sector this forces the VA to improve or ultimately become irrelevant, fight or flight.

This doesn’t mean privatization of the VA. It means greater freedom and choice for veterans. By allowing the free market to function we will be installing a quality check on our health care system. Montana has the highest veterans suicide rate in the entire country and we need drastic change to help the struggling veterans and their families. I encourage Congressman Gianforte, Senator Daines, and Senator Tester to support The Mission Act.

Jesse Ramos is a Missoula City Council member and native of Libby.

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