At the Commander-in-Chief Forum where both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and real estate mogul Donald Trump were questioned by veterans about their qualifications for serving as head of the world’s largest military, Trump was confronted with how he would reform the Veteran’s Administration. Specifically, he delved into the long wait times that have plagued veterans returning home in huge numbers since the end of the second Iraq War. In 2014, some Phoenix, Arizona VA hospitals were found to be massaging the data on their waiting lists to keep vets on hold for months while reaping rewards for keeping wait lists down.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the exact quote here, but Trump basically said that to reduce the load on VA doctors and get care to vets on waiting lists he would institute a program that would allow veterans to receive care outside the VA while billing such care to the VA. It’s a good plan, which is why President Barack Obama did exactly that in 2014.
I ran across this program while investigating the state of health care for pregnant veterans through the VA in early 2015. Healthcare revolving around having children is a major area of concern for women using the VA, and for the most part they are being shipped out to remote clinics in dangerous areas or having their paperwork lost. Trump is absolutely right in that when it comes to basic procedures that the VA doesn’t necessarily specialize in, veterans are being failed.
But his proposal is essentially the same as the Veteran’s Access, Choice and Accountability Act, which Obama already signed into law two years ago. The act provides a choice card to veterans using the VA as their primary care-giver. It allows any veteran who has been unable to secure an appointment for 30 to go to another, non-VA facility for treatment and bill that treatment to the VA.
This program was deeply appreciated by the female veterans I spoke to researching that story, restoring a lot of their faith in the government regarding its interest in their health. There are certainly still some problems, such as a veteran fighting the VA over his kidney transplant because the donor, his son, wasn’t a veteran, but overall it’s still the basic idea that Trump put forward in the forum.
Which begs several questions. Is Trump, who is near-universally critical of the Obama administration, not aware of the plans for America’s veterans that both camps share? And if he is, does he know of the quirks of this idea, such as organ donation, that have proved vexing for certain American veterans? Though the Clinton camp is flat-out wrong when it says Trump wants to privatize the VA, the reality is that he is just expounding an idea that President Obama has already implemented to mixed success. It does bother me that he doesn’t seem to know that.