Donald Trump has released a plan outlining how he would reform the Department of Veterans Affairs should he be elected president.
In a speech he made today, Trump outlined the following 10 steps he would take to reform the VA:
- Appoint a VA Secretary whose sole purpose will be to serve veterans.
- Use the powers of the presidency to remove and discipline the federal employees and managers who have violated the public’s trust and failed to carry out the duties to veterans.
- Ask Congress to pass legislation that empowers the Secretary of the VA to discipline or terminate any employee who has jeopardized the health, safety or well-being of a veteran.
- Create a commission to investigate fraud, cover-ups, and wrong-doing that has taken place in the VA, and present these findings to Congress to spur legislative reform.
- Strengthen whistleblower protections by protecting and promoting honest employees at the VA who highlight wrongdoing.
- Create a private White House hotline, which will be active 24 hours a day and answered by a real person. It will be devoted to answering veteran’s complaints of wrongdoing at the VA and ensure no complaints fall through the cracks.
- Stop giving bonuses to any VA employees who are wasting money, and start rewarding employees who seek to improve the VA’s service, cut waste, and save lives.
- Reform the visa system to ensure veterans are at the front of the line for health services, not the back of the line.
- Increase the number of mental health care professionals, and allow veterans to be able to seek mental health care outside of the VA.
- Ensure every veteran has the choice to seek care at the VA or at a private service provider of their own choice.
Trump said these changes are necessary because of widespread problems at the VA, something he largely blamed on the current Administration. A few examples he cited in his speech:
- 40 veterans died while waiting for care in Phoenix
- A VA employee involved in an armed robbery was kept on staff
- VA facilities around the country were found to be falsifying data regarding wait times.
In his speech, Trump said, “Right now, when VA employees fail our veterans, you can’t discipline them. That’s because of outdated civil service rules in need of reform,” something he promised in his speech to change.
He went on to cite two examples of bonuses given to VA employees after making what he called “bad decisions:”
- In 2014, the VA awarded $142 million in bonuses to its employees, including bonuses to the executives who oversaw construction of the Denver VA hospital, that was more than $1 billion over budget
- Two VA executives abused their authority to obtain $400,000 in relocation benefits
The American Federation of Government Employees was quick to denounce Trump’s VA reform plan, calling it “an outrageous betrayal of our nation’s promise to care for the men and women who have borne the battle.”
“Donald Trump wants to throw veterans to the wolves,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “Private health care for veterans would be an expensive disaster, and no one should be fooled into believing otherwise. The VA system provides the best possible health care to veterans at the lowest possible cost. Veterans know this and that’s why they overwhelmingly want to keep the VA health care they have.”
Trump also released a VA reform plan last fall in which he said would “decrease wait times, improve healthcare outcomes, and facilitate a seamless transition from service into civilian life” and also promised to fire the “corrupt and incompetent VA executives that let our veterans down” as part of the reforms.