What Veterans Want, and Why the GOP Avoids It

Another GOP Debate, and another GOP debate that didn't delve into the issue of veterans care in America.

Should we be shocked about that? A new poll from the Vet Voice Foundation suggests that we shouldn't be.

In short, the poll finds that veterans hate the ideas that Republicans have put forth for veterans care. Not only that, but the poll shows that veterans will vote against politicians who back the extreme GOP-Koch agenda for privatizing veterans care.

What agenda is that? It's the agenda that Jeb Bush is talking about, when he says he would begin privatizing parts of the veterans' health system. It's the agenda that Ben Carson is talking about when he says he would shut down the Department of Veterans Affairs. It's the agenda Marco Rubio backs, when he appears with the Koch-funded group "Concerned Veterans For America," to unveil their proposal to migrate veterans to a system of vouchers and private insurance.

Right on down the line, conservatives in the race for President and in Congress, are on the march to end the pact we've made with veterans, to provide them with care - not vouchers - when they need it.

Polling finds that veterans, overwhelmingly, abhor that agenda. So, it's no wonder that Republicans avoid talking about it.

The poll of 800 veterans was performed jointly by a Democratic polling firm and Republican firm, and the sample leaned Republican. Even still, the results came out unfavorable to Republicans.

  • Veterans oppose a proposal in Congress that would have the real effect of leading to privatized VA hospitals. Sixty-four percent oppose, and only 29% support.

  • Overall, 57% of veterans would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supported privatizing the VA health care system. Even a majority of Republicans indicate they would be more likely to vote against a candidate who supported privatization. This opposition extends across parties: 67% of Democratic, 57% of Independent/don't know, and 53% of Republican veterans say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate for high-elected office if they supported privatization of the VA health care system.
  • Fifty-nine percent of veterans rate their impression of VA hospitals as favorable. When only asked about VA hospitals in their area, 61% of veterans rate their impression as favorable.
  • In comparison, only 25% of veterans when asked if they have a favorable impression of for-profit health insurance corporations. And only 12 percent believe that VA hospitals should be run more like private hospitals.
  • So what do veterans want? Although veterans think that changes need to be made to the VA hospitals, their biggest want is more doctors. Forty-two percent of veterans think that "needs more doctors" describes VA hospitals in their area very well. That is the most frequently-given prescription for helping the VA perform more efficiently.
  • Hillary Clinton took a lot of heat for trying to say that despite the issues at the VA, veterans still very much like the system and want it to thrive. But this poll backs her up. Not only do veterans have positive feelings about the veterans' health system, overall, but they have extremely negative feelings about the private system that conservatives want to force them into. She further showed that she understood what veterans want, when she unveiled her plan for veterans care yesterday, which focused on bolstering the system of care, not privatizing it.

    Likewise, Bernie Sanders has long showed that he "gets it." Senator Sanders responded to the VA wait times scandal by proposing a massive influx of funds, so that the VA could hire more staff, including doctors and nurses, to ensure that veterans got the quality and timely care they earned.

    As always, this Veterans Day, politicians across the spectrum will post pictures of flags and troops on their social media, every one of them trying to show they're pro-veteran. But social media pictures and platitudes don't make one pro-veteran. Listening, and heeding the call of veterans makes someone pro-veteran. When it comes to that, this poll shows that some politicians are a lot more pro-veteran than others.