By Ryan Cooper
Veterans have long been breaking new ground for American social programs. A pension program for Civil War vets was thefirst national-level welfare program of any kind. Today the Department of Veterans Affairs runs the most socialized part of the U.S. health care system — like Britain’s NHS, the Veterans Health Administration is both single-payer and single-provider, where the government owns and operates the hospitals.
The VA has always had a somewhat uncomfortable existence, poised between America’s instinctive hero-worship of the military and its traditional love of private business and markets. Until quite recently, veteran worship won out even among conservatives, who would criticize the VA but stop short of dismantling it for fear of insufficient levels of Supporting The Troops.
No longer. Now most conservatives in Congress, prompted in large part by a Koch brothers-funded astroturf group,
are gunning for veterans’ health care. They want American vets dumped onto the private market, where they will unquestionably receive worse care than they currently do.
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