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VA union holds rally to save itself, Tomah whistleblower says

By   /   June 21, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 31 of 47 in the series Tomah VA Scandal

MADISON, Wis. – The union that helped bring to light myriad abuses at the scandal-plagued Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center is now trying to save the health care system that created it.

Members of the American Federation of Government Employees, Local 0007, have scheduled a “Rally to Strengthen the VA and Keep Our Promise to Veterans.”

The rally is to take place from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday on the hospital’s VA sidewalk, at 500 Veterans St. in Tomah.

“Congress must not sell out veterans to for-profit health care corporations or shut down VA hospitals,” the rally flier states. “Dedicated VA workers know that the only way to deliver on the promise America has made to veterans is to strengthen the VA by hiring more doctors, nurses, and support staff.”

In other words, throw more money at a badly broken health care system, the VA’s strongest critics say.

Photo contributed

UNION RALLY: The union that represents many of the employees at the scandal-plagued Tomah VA Medical Center will hold a “Rally to Strengthen the VA” on Thursday.

“This flier is a blatant example of a self-serving government special interest more interested in scaring veterans to remain shackled to a choiceless system,” wrote Ryan Honl, the former Tomah VA hospital employee-turned whistleblower, on his Facebook page.

“In realty what this means is that public sector unions are scared to death that veterans would have the right to be a customer that can decide for themselves what is best for their healthcare and where to take their lives and their benefits,” Honl added.

In response to growing concerns about the VA’s ability to provide access to medical services for veterans and manage the operations of the Veterans Health Administration, Congress passed a measure establishing the Commission on Care. The commission is charged with examining access and how “best to organize the VHA, locate health resources, and deliver health care to veterans during the next 20 years.”

The union, which represents some 650,000 government workers, has run a full-court press on any move toward privatization of the VA health care system.

In April, AFGE President David Cox Sr. wrote a column for the liberal, pro-union Daily Kos, essentially declaring the sky would fall should the federal government get out of the health care delivery business. Cox pulled out the usual big labor bogeyman in the column’s headline – “Inside the Koch Brothers’ Plot to Sell Out Veterans’ Health Care.”

Is the union’s primary concern delivery of health care to veterans? Or is it worried about lost membership – and lost dues – from lost government jobs?

It wasn’t too long ago that liberal economist Paul Krugman was extolling the virtues of the VHA, describing it as a “huge policy success story, which offers important lessons for future health reform.” Those future lessons proved to be the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, a/k/a Obamacare.

Both government-run systems have encountered plenty of administrative and health care delivery problems.

REPORT: Tomah VA hospital story is one of ‘systemic failures’

Tomah, like other VA medical centers, is proof negative of the many problems the federal health care system faces. The medical center has been the subject of extensive investigations on overprescription of painkillers, policies reported to have led to the deaths of at least two veterans. A recently released Senate committee report details an environment of misconduct and fear in which employees – including AFGE local union representatives – were retaliated against for bringing allegations of waste, fraud, and abuse to the public.

“Shame on AFGE (but thanks for proving my point with this flier what your true motives are),” Honl, a Gulf War veteran, wrote. “This is about ‘dedicated VA workers,’ not veterans, and getting more union dues through hiring more of them.”

Part of 47 in the series Tomah VA Scandal
  1. After damaging silence, Baldwin now calls for probe of troubled VA center
  2. Legal expert says U.S. Sen Tammy Baldwin is in full ‘damage control’
  3. Baldwin aide breaks silence, alleges senator engaged in ‘coverup’
  4. Baldwin’s public relations team kicks into high gear following ethics complaint
  5. Ethics watchdog urges Senate committee to investigate Baldwin
  6. Tammy Baldwin’s political fixer is helping Hillary attack voter ID
  7. Senate committee asking if FBI missed the call in veteran’s death at VA
  8. When lawmakers failed Wisconsin’s veterans
  9. Is political pressure behind Lin Ellinghuysen’s differing accounts on VA memo?
  10. Bernie Sanders failed to act in deadly VA scandal, whistleblower says
  11. Does government union chief’s threat show AFGE’s hand on veterans care?
  12. What would Russ Feingold’s 1992 self say to the 2015 version?
  13. Ad attacking Feingold asserts veterans died because of ‘politicians who looked the other way’
  14. Feingold’s campaign caught up in VA scandal memo war
  15. PolitiFact Wisconsin trusts Russ Feingold to deliver its facts
  16. Sources: Ron Kind received call from Jason Simcakoski not long before Marine’s tragic death
  17. Captain Campaign Finance Reform, Russ Feingold, changes ‘dark money’ tune
  18. Baldwin talks transparency while keeping her secrets in Tomah VA scandal
  19. Ron Kind knew about Tomah VA abuse years before the story broke
  20. Ron Kind now solving Tomah VA scandal one press release at a time
  21. Tammy Baldwin silent on her failures as she blasts Tomah VA medical center
  22. Tomah VA whistleblower says he’s getting pressure from unhappy Dems
  23. Feingold’s facts fail again in face of Tomah scandal
  24. Senate field hearing to shine more light on Tomah VA scandal
  25. Tomah VA supervisor accused of misconduct gets promoted
  26. Senate hearing to look deeper into scandal-plagued Tomah VA hospital
  27. Kind flees questions, Senate committee turns up heat on Tomah VA hospital scandal
  28. Report: Tomah VA hospital story is one of ‘systemic failures’
  29. Tomah VA hospital whistleblower: ‘It will not change’
  30. Ron Kind breaks silence on call from veteran victim at Tomah VA hospital
  31. VA union holds rally to save itself, Tomah whistleblower says
  32. Sound familiar? Illinois Rep. Tammy Duckworth accused of retaliation at VA
  33. Emails say Tomah VA patient reached out to Feingold, Kind, in 2008 about abuse
  34. Johnson: Hold accountable those who put Tomah veterans at risk of HIV, hepatitis
  35. Veteran jumps out of third-floor window at Tomah VA hospital
  36. Tomah VA employee: ‘We have forgotten who we work for’
  37. Congressional committees want answers on Tomah VA hospital
  38. Senators ask Pence, Trump transition team, to hold troubled VA accountable
  39. Veterans advocate: VA hospitals’ ‘improvement’ doesn’t tell whole story
  40. Tomah VA Medical Center’s ‘Candy Man’ stripped of license
  41. Opinions differ on whether it’s ‘meet the new boss, same as the old boss’ at Tomah VA
  42. Latest data show Tomah VA hospital improving in opioid prescriptions, veteran satisfaction
  43. VA secretary nominee faces little resistance, lots of challenges
  44. Insiders: Tomah VA troubles continue with nurse shortage, neglectful care
  45. VA whistleblower has questions for Congressman Ron Kind
  46. Johnson brings back whistleblower protection bill as Sunshine Week opens
  47. Iraq war veteran burned by ‘very frustrating process’ at VA


M.D. Kittle is bureau chief of Wisconsin Watchdog and First Amendment Reporter for Watchdog.org. Kittle is a 25-year veteran of print, broadcast and online media. He is the recipient of several awards for journalism excellence from The Associated Press, Inland Press, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, and others. He is also a member of Investigative Reporters & Editors. Kittle's extensive series on Wisconsin's unconstitutional John Doe investigations was the basis of a 2014 documentary on Glenn Beck's TheBlaze. His work has been featured in Town Hall, Fox News, NewsMax, and other national publications, and his reporting has been cited by news outlets nationwide. Kittle is a fill-in talk show host on the Jay Weber Show and the Vicki McKenna Show in Milwaukee and Madison.