Various former members of the Trump administration have joined to found a new nonprofit group focused on policies for veterans in the model of the America First Policy Group also founded by former Trump staffers, The Washington Post reports.
The group, Veterans 4 America First Institute, is headed by former acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Peter O’Rourke, former VA adviser Darin Selnick, former Treasury Department staffer Camilo Sandoval, former VA and Pentagon staffer Jason Beardsley, and former deputy associate attorney general Reed Rubinstein. Its advisory board counts retired Army Lt. Keith Kellog, who was chief of staff of the National Security Council, as a member.
"Our veterans … bear the burden of bureaucratic mismanagement and political ineptitude, O’Rourke, who is president of Veterans 4 America, said in a statement.
"Our point is not to be partisan or point a finger at the current secretary," Selnick told the Post in an interview. "But we have the expertise to come up with solutions and advance them."
He added that current VA Secretary Denis McDonough has been "going backwards" in regards to pushing patients towards seeing private doctors in their communities rather than going to VA doctors.
VA press secretary Terrence Hayes told the newspaper that the "VA has no comment as it pertains to this or any other group of former VA staff members. We are solely focused on our sacred obligation of providing the absolute-best health care and access to benefits for our Veterans.
He added that "the Secretary encourages Veterans to use VA health care more often than not because we have a remarkable continuum of care program and offer outstanding providers for our Veterans.
McDonough "also fully supports the use of community care when it results in the best outcomes for Veterans," Hayes said, noting that in the first three quarters of the year, the VA has seen referrals to private doctors and outpatient care rise when compared to last year, which was numbers drop during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Post noted that former President Donald Trump’s first VA secretary, David Shulkin, previously founded the veterans-focused podcast Policy Vets along with former American Legion executive director Louis Celli that aims to highlight issues faced by veterans.
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