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By Protecting Veterans’ Health, You May Protect Your Own

This Veterans Day, in addition to honoring those who serve in uniform, we should spend some time remembering the 300,000 employees of the Veterans Health Administration. The V.H.A. — the nation’s largest public health system — doesn’t just keep veterans healthy; it has developed treatments that help all Americans. And if we don’t defend it, it could be dismantled and auctioned off in whatever remains of the Trump era.

In V.H.A. facilities I have met some of the best doctors, nurses, therapists and medical researchers I’ve encountered in 40 years of reporting on the hospital industry. They deliver high-quality care to more than nine million patients who are, on average, older, sicker and poorer than those served by other systems. Yet, unlike veterans themselves, who are praised by politicians and the press, V.H.A. staff members, and the agency they work for, are routinely denigrated.

President Trump has insisted that “our veterans have been treated horribly” and that the V.H.A. is staffed with “bad apples” who “rob us or cheat us.” Last month, in a speech at a prestigious medical conference in Cleveland, John Boehner, the former House speaker, said the Department of Veterans Affairs, of which the V.H.A. is part, is simply “hopeless.” Its hospitals “provide substandard care to our veterans who deserve the best care,” Mr. Boehner said. “If you’re a real doctor, you’re probably not working at the V.A.”

Studies have shown that private-sector doctors and hospitals are not prepared to deal with veterans’ complex needs. But foes of the V.H.A., backed by wealthy donors like the Koch brothers, want to dismantle its hospital and clinic network and contract out billions of dollars’ worth of veterans’ services to the private sector.

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