Western North Carolina Republican Congressman Mark Meadows is playing a leading role in the national health care debate. While back home in his district on recess, Meadows engaged in a series of events with veterans, talking about benefits and health care.
But not everyone was happy to see him.
It’s been something of a tradition since Mark Meadows became Western North Carolina’s congressman in 2013 – early August meetings with veterans. On Aug. 10, Meadows paid a visit to the Haywood County Senior Resource Center, and waiting for him there was Bob Houde – nine-year veteran of the U.S. Army and Navy, founder and chair of the Carolina Veterans Peace Coalition. “He’s a co-sponsor of a bill, it’s called the Veterans Empowerment Act, and that bill, basically when you read through the whole thing degrades the Veterans Administration’s healthcare system,” Houde said.
“No, the bill that they’re talking about actually is dead,” said Meadows, who spent 90 minutes listening to veterans at the event. He co-sponsored the bill last fall, which was widely seen as a bold step towards privatizing VHA services and was opposed by the VFW and American Legion. Meadows though, has since had a change of heart, while the bill remains mired in a House subcommittee. “We’ve asked to get off of that bill,” he said. “We’ve already passed the bill that actually all the veterans associations want us to be for in May.”
That’s the VA Mission Act, which opponents still call a slow erosion of the VHA with an eye on privatization. Houde remains leery. “Even if they were to pull it back now, their intent is obvious just by the fact that they sponsored the bill,” he said.
Meadows maintains that’s not the case. “We’ll never vote to privatize it,” he said. “Actually that particular bill was designed help some of the rural communities and that’s why I got on it originally, but we had some people that were concerned that it might lead to privatization, so I gave them my 100 percent commitment that not only will that not happen, but it will never have my vote when it comes to that.”
The issue will be watched closely this fall by Western North Carolina voters, 10 percent of whom are veterans.