Romney’s idea of privatizing vets' health care under fireBy KATHRYN MARCHOCKI
New Hampshire Union Leader
November 17. 2011 9:15PM
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's suggestion to privatize health care for military veterans by introducing a voucher system came under attack by several veterans Thursday.
Former Marine combat veteran Michael Rodriguez of New London said a voucher system would 'set back' progress the Veterans Affairs health system has made in the last 15 years in treating military veterans and their unique medical and psychological needs, such as traumatic brain injuries, missing limbs and post-traumatic stress syndrome.
'These are incredibly difficult (injuries) to treat and the VA is the only system with the experience to treat them,' Rodriguez, 27, said in a telephone conference call hosted by the Truman National Security Project in advance of Romney's visit to Manchester today.
The group is based in Washington and describes itself as a leadership institute that recruits, trains and positions progressives to lead on national security.
Romney raised the voucher concept during a campaign stop in South Carolina with about a dozen veterans last Friday, according to media reports. The former Massachusetts governor floated the idea of introducing 'some free-market competition' after 'listening to several men talk about problems they had encountered with their Veterans Affairs benefits and health care,' the New York Times reported.
'If you're the government, they know there's nowhere else you guys can go, you're stuck,' UPI quoted Romney telling the veterans.
Former U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi, who is veterans adviser to the Romney campaign, said Romney, if elected, would build a VA health care system that is 'patient focused' and would use the 'full weight of his office to eliminate the backlog of claims for disability compensation and pensions.'
Rodriguez and former U.S. Army Capt. John Gensler - both fellows with the Truman National Security Project - foresaw no cost savings in privatizing health care for veterans.
'America has already vouched for the care of our veterans and that voucher is the VA,' said Gensler, 33, formerly of West Virginia.
'Veterans have earned their care, not health coupons,' added Gensler, who was disabled while serving in Iraq.