Over the weekend, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) doubled down on her assessment that VA hospitals are not in need of serious reform and, in fact, represent a functional example of a state-run healthcare system, calling the many stories that contradict her assertions, "myths."
Ocasio-Cortez has been on a two-week campaign against a bill that would require major reforms to take place within the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system, calling the VA's care "high quality," and claiming that even semi-privatization of the system would plunge it into chaos because of the "for-profit healthcare industry," according to The Washington Examiner.
In a series of remarks, Ocasio-Cortez insisted that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," and that complaints about the VA mishandling patients and misappropriating funds, and of long waits for substandard care, are all "myths."
"You might have heard Fox News talking about it," Ocasio-Cortez said, "because there is a myth that all VAs everywhere are broken."
Those myths, she claims, are perpetuated by anti-government activists who don't want Americans to know just how good a state-run healthcare system really is.
"If we can starve them of budgets and make sure they can't do their job, then we can say the whole system should be thrown away," Ocasio-Cortez added. "I'm not going to back down from protecting the VA."
There are a number of Veterans Affairs reforms already underway, thanks to a massive VA reform bill that passed last year before Ocasio-Cortez was elected to office, according to The Washington Free Beacon. President Donald Trump, sensing a "bipartisan" moment last week, even briefly agreed with Ocasio-Cortez that the VA is working better than ever, thanks to Trump administration efforts.
In Ocasio-Cortez's world, however, the VA was working fine before Congress got involved. In fact, any effort to reform the VA, she seems to believe, is simply a way to funnel money back to organizations that make a profit on healthcare services, from pharmaceutical companies to insurance organizations.
“Here’s the thing: They are trying to fix it, but who are they trying to fix it for is the question we’ve got to ask,” Ocasio-Cortez said last week in comments captured by the WFB. “They’re trying to fix the VA for pharmaceutical companies, they’re trying to fix the VA for insurance corporations, and ultimately they’re trying to fix the VA for a for-profit health-care industry that does not put people or veterans first.”
But problems within the VA aren't simply talking points, they're verifiable through media reports — and not just media reports from right-leaning news outlets. In Phoenix, Arizona, at least 40 veterans died while waiting for care from a Phoenix VA facility, according to the Assoociated Press, an incident that lead to widespread investigations into whether other VA facilities were providing adequate care.
"An investigation by the VA’s office of inspector general found that workers at the Phoenix VA hospital falsified waiting lists while their supervisors looked the other way or even directed it, resulting in chronic delays for veterans seeking care," the AP reported.
CNBC did a full documentary on trouble at the VA entitled, "Death and Dishonor: Crisis at the VA," which uncovered misuse and misappropriation of funds, "fraud, corruption, and cover-ups" inside the system. A similar deep dive at USA Today revealed wait times for care that reglarly exceed those at private hospitals, higher rates of preventable infections and bed sores, and widespread veteran dissatisfaction.
A recent poll, reported by the Free Beacon, shows that 90% of veterans would prefer to be able to "shop around" outside of the VA for quality care.
Those aren't myths. Those are real people.