NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Registered nurses and healthcare professionals from across Western Massachusetts, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, will rally outside the Northampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Monday, March 28 as part of a growing coalition of healthcare, veterans, labor and community groups and individuals opposed to the planned closure of the VA.
Rally to Save Northampton VA
When: 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, March 28
Where: Outside the VA at 421 N Main St., Leeds, MA
Rally Participant Individuals/Organizations: Statement from Congressman Jim McGovern, Senator John Velis, the Chair for the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs, and a Major in the Army Reserves (speaker), Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa (speaker), Northampton City Councilor Rachel Maiore, David Felty President/CEO of Homeward Vets & Commander of the VFW Post 8006 in Florence (speaker), Patrick Burke, WMALF Hampshire Franklin Labor Assembly (speaker), Statement from RN Patty Healey, Statement from Senator Jo Comerford, Colton Andrews, President, LIUNA local 596 & Pioneer Valley Building Trades (speaker)
Coalition Members: Western Mass Area Labor Federation, Jobs with Justice, Western Massachusetts Medicare for All
There has been widespread outrage among veterans, community and labor groups, and elected officials following the announcement March 14 by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that it plans to close the Northampton VA Medical Center. The rally will encourage federal officials to save the VA. Nearly 100 years old, the Northampton VA provides a wide range of health and support services for veterans throughout the region.
“I was outraged to learn of the recommended closure of the VA Medical Center in Leeds,” said State Senator Jo Comerford, D-Northampton. “The Leeds VA is a critical healthcare provider for veterans in the western Massachusetts region. We're at the beginning of this process and my constituents can count on me to reject a blatant disregard for their healthcare needs. I join my federal and state colleagues in holding strong against this closure.”
“The Northampton VA has been providing veteran centered healthcare for all veterans in the Pioneer Valley for decades,” said Patty Healey RN. “Right now, local veterans can access the specialized care they need in Northampton without having to travel great distances or seek out more expensive inefficient private healthcare. For the well-being of our veterans, their families and caregivers, the federal government must keep our Northampton VA open.”
The Veteran Administration’s recommendation to close the Northampton VA and other sites around the country came out of the MISSION Act, which allows for the privatization of the VA healthcare system. MNA nurses and other labor groups have long called out the dangers of privatization, focusing on how wealthy political and economic interests have pushed for privatization against the interests of veterans and taxpayers.
“Closing VA facilities will force veterans to rely on uncoordinated, private, for-profit care, where they will suffer from long wait times and be without the unique expertise and integrated services that only the VA provides,” the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the largest federal employee union, said in a statement earlier this month. “Every time the VA has tried to privatize veterans’ care, the private sector has charged veterans more money out of pocket for worse outcomes.”
As National Nurses United has pointed out in its opposition to the VA recommendations, ProPublica and other news outlets have reported extensively on the troubling ways profit-driven entities exploit efforts to privatize veteran care, as well as the dangerous effects on veterans who are trying to access care. Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs, David Shulkin, and many veterans’ service organizations have denounced any efforts to privatize veterans’ services, underscoring privatization’s negative outcomes for veterans.
A 2018 RAND Corporation study found that the VA medical system is working as well or better than non-VA care. On average, VA hospitals performed the same or "significantly better" than non-VA hospitals on almost all patient, mortality, and effectiveness measures, researchers found. For outpatients, VA facilities performed better than commercial and Medicaid HMOs and better or similarly to Medicare HMOs.
In addition, private healthcare is also far more expensive than the cost-effective VA system, NNU wrote in a March 14 statement on the planned closures and consolidations. If veterans are forced to seek care in the private sector, those services will undoubtedly lead to higher out-of-pocket costs at a time when many veterans are already struggling with higher housing costs and other economic troubles, especially those trying to reintegrate into society.
Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.