GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump told the annual VFW convention Tuesday that military veterans should have expanded access to private doctors and health care providers, while warning that “Crooked Hillary Clinton” is bent on sweeping “under the rug” the problems that have plagued the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Mr. Trump said the nation should pick up the tab for veterans that seek out more timely care from private doctors and clinics outside the system.
“The veterans health system will remain a public system, because it is a public trust,” he said. “But never again will we allow any veteran to suffer or die waiting for care. That means veterans will have the right to go to a VA facility or the right to see a private doctor or clinic of their choice, whatever is fastest and best for the veteran.”
“And we will pick up the bill,” Mr. Trump said. “It will cost us less money and the care will be amazing.”
The VA scandal erupted in 2014 after it became clear that department officials had cooked the books to try to hide long wait times, for the sake of making administrator bonuses, and that tens of thousands of veterans has been stuck in backlogs awaiting care at VA facilities.
Some veterans died while waiting.
Congress responded by approving a $16 billion package that, among other things, covered the cost of a Veterans Choice Card that allows eligible veterans to receive health care from a private clinic, instead of a VA facility, if they have waited longer than 30 days for an appointment.
On his campaign website, Mr. Trump says all veterans should be able to receive services from any doctor or health care provider that accepts Medicare. He says the competition will force the VA to be more responsive to veterans.
Mrs. Clinton, meanwhile, has backed the Choice Card, but warned that it should not lead to a privatization of the entire system.
On Tuesday, Mr. Trump told VFW convention that he will tackle the VA shortcomings head-on, calling them a “permanent stain on our government.”
“Our most basic commitment to provide health and medical care to those who fought for us so bravely has been violated completely,” Mr. Trump said. “The VA scandals that have occurred are widespread and totally inexcusable. As we know, many have died waiting for care that never came, a permanent stain on our government.”
“It is like she is trying to sweep it under the rug, which by the way politicians have done for years and years and years,” Mr. Trump said. “It is going to be four more years of the same if she ever got in. But that’s not going to happen.”
“We know how she takes care of the veterans, just look at her invasion of Libya and handling of Benghazi — a disaster,” he said. “Or look at her emails, which put Americans’ entire national security at risk.”
For her part, Mrs. Clinton said Monday that she was “outraged” by VA problems, and said that she will make revamping the system “one of my highest priorities.”
“But I will tell you this, we are not going to privatize the VA. We are going to reform it and make it work for every single veteran in America,” she said.
Without mentioning him by name, she also took a shot at Mr. Trump’s questioning of Sen. John McCain’s heroism as a Vietnam War POW — the real estate tycoon had said he preferred service members whose planes weren’t shot down.
Mrs. Clinton said she was happy to work with the Arizona Republican to raise money for the Intrepid Heroes Fund, a nonprofit group that provides support to military personnel and their families.
“And let me just say, it was a pleasure to work with Sen. McCain on that project and many others. I believe that he and all American prisoners of war are heroes and deserve the respect that that entails,” she said.
Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.