Asheville veterans are fortunate to have access to health care at one of the country’s finest VA medical facilities. That facility is in danger of being closed. Legislation being co-sponsored by our local representative, Mark Meadows, targets the VA for closure and places veterans in the more costly and less efficient “for profit” health care system. I recently had an opportunity to speak with Rep. Meadows at a meeting at Fletcher Town Hall.
The meeting hosted veterans whose claims had been denied by the VA eligibility unit. These veterans were being given an opportunity to speak directly with VA representatives in regard to the unfavorable decisions regarding their claims. Rep. Meadows was there to shake hands and encourage the veterans to argue their claims with the VA. When it came my turn to speak with Rep. Meadows, I told him that I wanted to discuss his support to close the VA.
Rep. Meadows’ initial response was that he supports veterans. I referenced House Bill 4457, a bill whose ultimate goal is to close the VA. He said that he didn’t know what I was talking about. I reminded him that he is a co-sponsor of H.R. 4457. His response was that I should not worry; the bill wasn’t going anywhere. I replied: That is not the point. He co-sponsored a bill that clearly demonstrates his desire and intent to eliminate this vital benefit for the men and women who served their country and need the specialized health care services that are uniquely provided to veterans by the VA health care system. He told me that he simply didn’t know what was in the bill. I don’t know how one can co-sponsor a bill like H.R. 4457 and not know what is in it.
The VA has recently been subject to negative criticism. The first and perhaps the worst was reporting about problems at the Phoenix facility. There are also other facilities with problems that need to be corrected. However, most facilities are average or better when compared to private care. The Charles George VA in Asheville has very high ratings for the care that is provided by their excellent staff. The VA manages a critical database that can’t be duplicated in the private sector. The discovery of the long-term effects of Agent Orange on Vietnam veterans is an example of what is a unique capability of the VA. Mental health and rehabilitation services are also examples of care that is best provided to veterans by the VA. The VA health system also provides for a multitude of training opportunities for new doctors in residence, nursing students and other health care training schools. The VA also works with the private sector when needed.
The VA is a government health care system that has demonstrated that they provide better care at lower cost than the “for profit” system. Veterans also benefit by having the opportunity to spend more time with their doctors and [receive] other health care services and [staff] are not pushed to move their patients through an indifferent system that is based on profit. Intense efforts need to be employed to correct problems at underperforming facilities. For those facilities that are performing well, they need to be provided the tools and financing to continue to strive for excellence.
— Steve Miller
Editor’s note: Miller reports that he served in the Air Force (1966-70) as a sergeant with the 15th Aerial Port Squadron and is currently receiving care at the Asheville VA for multiple medical service-connected problems, including Agent Orange-related cancer.
According to congress.gov, Rep. Meadows co-sponsored H.R. 4457 (the Veterans Empowerment Act) when it was introduced in November 2017, but withdrew from co-sponsorship in September. Blue Ridge Public Radio and Smoky Mountain News reported on a Haywood County meeting the congressman had with veterans in August, in which he referenced his support for a different bill, the VA Mission Act. Xpress contacted the congressman’s spokesman about the letter writer’s points related to the Fletcher meeting and his current position on the VA, but he declined to offer a response.