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Politico: Veterans Groups Worry VA Will 'Get Burned Down' Under Trump

Image: Politico: Veterans Groups Worry VA Will 'Get Burned Down' Under Trump

(AP)

By    |   Friday, 02 Dec 2016 09:22 AM

Veterans advocates worry that incoming president Donald Trump's administration will privatize the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to Politico.

"The worst case scenario within the vets community is a total dismantling of everything they worked generations to create," said Paul Reickhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "There is a growing fear it is all going to get burned down.

"Privatization is an experiment. Is that an experiment we want to take in the middle of a war with demand about to skyrocket?" he added.

Nine million of the nation's more than 20 million veterans are enrolled in the VA's health system. Many veterans face long waits to get treatment at VA hospitals and red tape in gaining benefits such as disability payments, loans, and education, Politico reported.

According to Trump's transition team's website, officials promise to "transform the Department of Veterans Affairs to bring it into the 21st Century."

Trump transition officials held a "listening session" Thursday with more than 30 veterans' groups. American Legion executive director Verna Jones told Politico "there were people who talked about making sure the VA was intact.Veterans deserve to go to the VA. We oppose privatization."

According to the The Washington Post Jones said privatization would be "a slap in the face to what we stand for."

Legislative director of the Vietnam Veterans of America Rick Weidman told the Post the private sector would cost veterans more and "who is going to coordinate veterans' care? That should be VA. Let VA be VA."

Conservative activist Pete Hegseth, one of the candidates being considered to lead the Department of Veteran's Affairs, has proposed turning the VA into an "independent, government-chartered nonprofit corporation," according to Politico.

Retired Army officer Phillip Carter said Hegseth as secretary "would signal a real intent to fundamentally change the agency."

Reickhoff told Politico that if Hegseth gets the job, "there is going to be an ideological war with just about every major veterans service organization."

Another potential secretary, Florida GOP Rep. Jason Miller, wants to make it easier to fire VA employees who perform poorly, Politico notes, and he wants to allow private health care for veterans who face long waits in the VA system.

"Donald Trump comes in with a totally clean slate, not bound by any preconceived notions as to what works, what doesn't work," Miller told Politico.

Nonpartisan advocacy groups want improvements in care and choices, but are united behind the idea that the VA needs to stay intact. Finding a workable mix between public and private care is a priority, says Sherman Gillums of Paralyzed Veterans of America, according to Politico.

"How do we expand private sector healthcare for the majority of veterans who need timely access to care without diminishing the access to and quality of specialized care services for the most vulnerable veterans who rely on VA for lifelong care?" Gillums asked.

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Veterans advocates worry that incoming president Donald Trump's administration will privatize the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to Politico.
veterans, VA, worry, trump
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2016-22-02
Friday, 02 Dec 2016 09:22 AM
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