Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican Party nominee focused on the VA and veterans’ health issues in a speech Monday in Virginia Beach, Virginia. In the speech, Mr. Trump called for civil service reform, access to community care for all veterans regardless of Choice program eligibility, and more VA mental health care providers.
“It is the job of the next President to make America safe again, for everyone,” Mr. Trump said in a prepared speech. “That promise of protection must include taking care of every last veteran.”
Echoing the recent recommendations of the Commission on Care, Mr. Trump argued that access to care in the community should be guaranteed for all veterans. “We must extend this right to all veterans, not just those who can’t get an appointment in 30 days, or who live more than 40 miles from a VA hospital, which is the current policy.”
Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic Party nominee, did not directly respond to Mr. Trump’s proposal or those of the Commission on Care. However she has previously stated that she opposes efforts to privatize veteran care. Mrs. Clinton has touted her role in increasing aid to families of veterans and active- duty service members and expanding coverage to include National Guard and reservists as a member of the Armed Services Committee.
Charging that the VA was “corrupt,” Mr. Trump vowed to begin an investigation immediately if he is elected president. “I will instruct my staff that if a valid complaint is not addressed, that the issue be brought directly to me,” he said. “I will pick up the phone and fix it myself if I have to.” The Republican candidate called for civil service reform so that the VA can more easily fire employees.
The Republican candidate’s remarks also drew on the pre-release of information from the VA’s research into suicide rates. Noting that the rate of veteran suicide is lower among patients in the VA system compared with the rate of those who do not use VA services, Mr. Trump called for expansion of mental health services at the VA. “A shocking 20 veterans are committing suicide each day, especially our older veterans,” Mr. Trump said. “This is a national tragedy. The evidence shows that if veterans are in the system, receiving care, they are much less likely to take their own lives than veterans outside the system. That is why we must increase the number of mental health care professionals inside the VA— while ensuring that veterans can access private mental health care as well.”
In his speech, Mr. Trump vowed to enact the following VA reform proposals:
1. I will appoint a Secretary of Veterans Affairs who will make it his or her personal mission to clean up the VA.
2. I am going to use every lawful authority to remove and discipline federal employees or managers who fail our veterans or breach the public trust.
3. I am going to ask Congress to pass legislation that ensures the Secretary of Veterans Affairs has the authority to remove or discipline any employee who risks the health, safety, or well-being of any veteran.
4. I am going to appoint a commission to investigate all the wrongdoing at the VA and then present those findings to Congress as the basis for bold legislative reform.
5. I am going to make sure the honest and dedicated people in the VA have their jobs protected and are put in line for promotions.
6. I will create a private White House Hotline that is answered by a real person 24 hours a day to ensure that no valid complaint about VA wrongdoing falls through the cracks.
7. We are going to stop giving bonuses to people for wasting money and start giving bonuses to people for improving service, saving lives, and cutting waste.
8. We are going to reform our visa programs to ensure American veterans are in the front, not back, of the line.
9 We are going to increase the number of mental health care professionals and increase outreach to veterans outside of the system.
10. We are going to ensure every veteran in America has the choice to seek care at the VA or to seek private medical care.