For Immediate Release
Contact: John Hoellwarth
National Communications Director
AMVETS (American Veterans)
AMVETS puts recent VA controversy in Context, calls for VA Sec. to be given ‘space to do his Job’
AMVETS National Headquarters, Feb. 19, 2018 – AMVETS Executive Director Joe Chenelly responded Monday to a recent Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General report as well as media reports of high-level infighting aimed at marginalizing the VA secretary and moving the agency toward privatization, saying:
President Donald Trump faced a crossroads with two distinct directions as the country went into the Presidents Day weekend. In one direction, forgive the errors of an imperfect VA Secretary who is to be credited for steering the agency along a positive path toward improving access to care for all veterans, to include the responsible expansion of care into the community. In the other, remove yet another senior leader within the Administration, this time in an agency long tormented by inconsistent leadership, and put the VA on a fast track toward Koch Brothers-funded privatization.
These choices are set against a backdrop characterized by the abrupt retirement of a tenured chief of staff, unprovoked attacks on the Deputy VA Secretary, allegations of email hacking, and mounting evidence of a conspiracy against not just the Secretary but also the stability of the Department.
President Trump ran and won on a platform that espoused a commitment to taking care of veterans. His impassioned attacks against the VA’s status quo at that time found resonance in Congress, media, the public, and the veteran community. He selected Dr. David Shulkin, after extensive consideration and wading through a motley crew of candidates, to carry out his ambitious effort to remake what is arguably the most hallowed yet most intransigent agency in the federal government.
Now, the question, after over a full year of progress and tremendous strides in accountability, opening access to care, improving access to benefits, tackling mental
health, and strengthening relations with stakeholders, is whether the President is ready to turn the keys to the VA over to ideologues who have designs on having VA go the way of railroads, airports, energy companies, postal services, and other businesses that have been privatized — and have also proven profitable for a few.
VA Secretary Shulkin is learning a tough lesson in politics: If you want to make enemies, try to change something. But he will not be the only one who pays if the President allows the VA to be treated, once again, like a political football that keeps getting punted each time a new VA Secretary is deposed. Somewhere, right now, there’s a dedicated VA employee who’s losing faith in her mission, a war-wounded veteran contemplating suicide, and a young person whose decision to serve in uniform is being influenced by his perception of the VA as being reported while political operatives within the VA are jockeying for leverage against an embattled Secretary. It’s time for the games to stop!
President Trump’s decision going forward will have a direct and lasting impact on the veterans of today and tomorrow. Choose wisely, Mr. President. Please allow VA Secretary Shulkin the space necessary to do his job and continue your focus on fixing the VA.
AMVETS is the nation’s most inclusive Congressionally-chartered veterans service organization. It is open to and fights for all veterans who served honorably, including reservists & guardsmen. AMVETS has been a nonpartisan advocate for veterans and their families for more than 70 years. amvets.org