Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has said health care is one of government’s top three responsibilities -- but apparently that task does not apply to veterans. Or at least not to the extent it is currently involved.
Sam Clovis, Trump’s chief policy adviser, this week told The Wall Street Journal a Trump administration would focus only on ensuring quality care for veterans.
“If that means we have some form of privatization or some form of Medicare, we don’t see anything wrong with that,” Clovis said. He added the current system is “broken,” and said Trump and his advisers would “look at” TRICARE as a model for how to potentially integrate government-run hospitals with private sector care.
It appears Trump as president would not fully phase out VA-run health care; Clovis noted some of the department’s facilities “are being run very well” and his boss had no interest in closing them.
Trump previously released a plan to reform VA, in which he said the department had excused “corruption and incompetence.” While the proposal did not advocate privatization, it did take a step in that direction by suggesting the department provide veterans with an identification card they could take to any hospital that accepts Medicare to receive care “immediately.”
He accused the VA of lacking “the right leadership and management.” The businessman said the changes would improve the department by boosting competition.
“The power to choose will stop the wait time backlogs and force the VA to improve and compete if the department wants to keep receiving veterans’ health care dollars,” Trump wrote in his plan.
The proposal also contained a variation on a familiar refrain, altered to apply to holding employees accountable: Trump vowed to “make the VA great again by firing the corrupt and incompetent VA executives who let our veterans down.” He added that underperforming VA supervisors would have “no job security,” modifying another of his most well known catchphrases: “They’re fired.”
Trump’s warming to VA privatization follows a similar proposal from his former primary opponent and current campaign adviser Ben Carson, who in September said government-run veterans health care “doesn’t make any sense.”
The idea has picked up steam in recent months and years after the conservative group Concerned Veterans for America originally floated the overhaul. Some members of the congressionally chartered Commission on Care have backed significantly reducing government’s role in providing veterans health care, calling for the immediate closure of underused VA facilities and for the department to eventually become “primarily a payor” entity.
Veteran service organizations are overwhelmingly opposed to such changes. The commission will issue its formal proposal in June.
On the Democratic side of the campaign, both Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., deplored the reportedly forthcoming actions of another federal agency, the Homeland Security Department.
Following reports confirmed by DHS’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement that the agency would begin deporting Central American mothers and children who entered the country illegally, both candidates said the decision was a misuse of federal resources.
"I am concerned about recent news reports, and believe we should not be taking kids and families from their homes in the middle of the night," Clinton said. "Large scale raids are not productive and do not reflect who we are as a country."
Sanders similarly called for Obama to use his executive authority to instead provide the immigrants with “temporary protective status.”
“I oppose the painful and inhumane business of locking up and deporting families who have fled horrendous violence in Central America and other countries,” Sanders said in a statement.
But while Clinton opposed some of the actions of the Obama administration, some who work in the administration are still very supportive of her. The Washington Free Beacon reported 228 Justice Department employees donated more than $73,000 to the former secretary of State.
Justice employees have donated $8,900 to Sanders, and just $381 to Trump.