The worst creeps in Congress want to privatize the VA — Vets are pissed!

Some members of the commission established by Congress to evaluate the Department of Veterans Health Administration have proposed drastically reducing the size of the VHA by closing its health facilities and transferring the care of the nation’s millions of military veterans to the private sector. But in a letter sent to the chair of the Commission on Care, leaders of eight of the country’s most prominent veterans’ advocacy organizations blasted the proposal.

“We are greatly alarmed by the content of [the proposal] that was developed and drafted outside the open Commission process by seven of the Commission’s fifteen members — without the input or even knowledge of the other Commissioners,” they wrote in a letter signed by senior leaders of the Disabled American Veterans, the American Legion, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the Vietnam Veterans of America, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, AMVETS, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

The plan — known as the “Strawman Document” — was floated in March by seven members of the 15-member Commission on Care…the report, which echoes VA privatization efforts that have been backed by the Koch brothers, says “bold transformation” is needed for the VA to address the needs of its enrolled veterans, and that the system is “seriously broken” with “no efficient path to repair it.” The plan calls for closing many “obsolete” VA facilities and moving toward a model where veterans can seek taxpayer-funded care at private health care facilities. A process similar to the Base Realignment and Closure system — used by the military since the end of the Cold War to decide which bases to close — would be used to evaluate which VA medical facilities would close. Under the plan, there would be no new facilities or major renovations of the existing VA facilities.

The plan also called for private doctors to be reimbursed at 5 to 10 percent higher than the Medicare rate, so they would have a greater incentive to participate…

Those who opposed the plan agree the VA needs to be improved, but they argue that essentially privatizing it would force veterans to search for care at private facilities that might not be trained or equipped to serve veterans suffering from the long-range effects of combat, such as spinal cord injuries “and the Polytrauma System of Care.” The authors add that the proposal ignores recent research, some commissioned by Congress itself, that found that VA care is often better than care in the private sector…

…Suzanne Gordon notes that…the supporters and drafters of the “strawman” proposal include conservatives and several hospital executives “who stand to benefit financially from [VA medical] privatization.”

That, of course, is a general rule of all privatization attempts by Republicans and other right-wing profiteers who want an end to real public service.

At the simplest level of theft these clowns increase administrative costs from the less-than-3% average of systems like Medicare and Social Security up to numbers ranging from 16-25% that corporate insurance barons tout as necessary. Necessary, perhaps, to pay country club dues – they haven’t a damned thing to do with providing consistent quality care to American citizens, veterans or otherwise.

Then you can add in inflated paybacks to Big Pharma – the most corrupt profit-based pharmaceutical industry on this silly old planet.

New invasive tumbleweed species rapidly expanding range

Click for a bonus musical interlude

Lead author of the study, Shana Welles, brought this sample to her lab for study

Two invasive species of tumbleweed have hybridized to create a new species of tumbleweed that University of California, Riverside researchers found has dramatically expanded its geographic range in California in just a decade.

The UC Riverside researchers believe Salsola ryanii is likely to become an important invasive species that could spread beyond California to other states…

The new species of tumbleweed…was first documented by California Department of Food and Agriculture scientists in 2002. Surveying throughout California, those scientists found the species in two areas of the state’s Central Valley in 2002. It was also documented by a wider group of scientists in a third area of the Central Valley in 2009.

The UC Riverside researchers did their field work in 2012, collecting tumbleweed from 53 sites throughout California. They found the new species at 15 of those sites. They found it throughout the Central Valley, but also in coastal areas around San Francisco and as far south as the Ventura area.

The results strongly contradict predictions in earlier studies that Salsola ryanii would not likely become invasive…

The researchers believe the population expansion of the Salsola ryanii species is due to two reasons: dispersal of seeds from individual plants due in large part to the “tumbling” phenomenon and multiple independent hybridizations of the two original tumbleweed species…

You have to be especially careful if you try to take out a big specimen of tumbleweed, say, with your pickup truck on a country road. If you only injure it, you may be at risk of attack.