By: Lt Col Thomas (Tom) Waters, USAF (Ret), Ed.D. / firstname.lastname@example.org
I really don’t want to make this article all about Dr. (Rear Admiral) Ronny Jackson, the former nominee for the position of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary. As I’ve stated before, he is a good doctor, but he was never qualified to handle the job of VA Secretary. And, I believe he did himself a favor by withdrawing his name as nominee because now he can return to his job as the White House doctor, stay on Active Duty, and manage his staff of approximately 30 medical personnel. Unfortunately, the latest reported news from all the news outlets state that he will NOT return as the President’s doctor. I say unfortunately because if the Navy can’t find an Active Duty billet for him to continue his service, he will have to retire.
Let’s face it. If he had been approved by the US Senate (which was a LONG shot at best) he probably would have been fired by the President within four or five months. This is because the demands of the job would have surely exposed his lack of experience with the VA system, lack of using VA benefits, and his lack of understanding veteran needs (who rely on the VA).
Some people that have contacted me said that he could have just refused the offer when President Trump made the offer. Those people obviously do NOT understand the workings of the military at the Field Grade or General/Admiral Grade levels. When offered an “opportunity to excel” by the Commander, the reply (unless you plan to retire) is “Yes Sir or Ma’am” regardless of your own personal desires. I can only ‘imagine’ the pressure of being offered that “opportunity to excel” by the Commander-In-Chief. So, I do NOT fault Dr. Jackson for accepting the job offer. And, I don’t fault him for removing his name under pressure from the veteran organizations, the press, and the US Senate that ensured that the pressure was only going to increase. That pressure was minuscule compared to the pressure he would have faced in trying to manage the VA.
So, now we are back to “square one” where we have NO VA Secretary and we’re seriously concerned about who the President will name next. Will he listen to the Veterans or the Veteran Organizations? One can only HOPE. I voice this concern because the President has re-stated his ‘push’ for the CHOICE PROGRAM while emphasizing his concern for the nation’s veterans.
I would feel better if the President stated which CHOICE PROGRAM he is referring to. The one we currently have allows for veterans to see an “outside” provider if the VA can’t see the veteran within a designated timeframe. It is also funded as such. The one that the President touted during his campaign (and continues to repeat for the TV cameras) is one that would allow any veteran to decide whether to use the VA or an outside provider on a “whim” by the veteran but requires the VA to foot the bill. As I’ve stated before, that would deplete the VA’s budget and force the VA to cut its service to needy veterans.
I also believe that as soon as the VA started to cut services that would be caused by this “pre-planned” lack of funding, the President could then rush to declare the VA unsalvageable and push harder for PRIVATIZATION of the entire VA Healthcare System.
We need to look carefully at the next Nominee for the position of VA Secretary. Will this person be placed there merely to force the PRIVATIZATION of the VA, completing a campaign promise for the President? Or, will that person be a supporter of Veteran Issues- standing firm against the President about the real veteran needs, and possibly be fired like the previous TWO VA Secretaries, McDonald and Shulkin?
It is my HOPE that the President will listen to Veterans and Veteran Organizations about what we need instead of telling us what we need and must live with. As President, he has the authority to force the issue if the US Senate confirms his selection as the next nominee for the position of VA Secretary.
Currently, as Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs, we have Mr. Robert Wilkie who is an American lawyer servicing also as the Under-Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. A statement by Mr. Wilkie is, “Congress Must pass Choice Bill now to give best care options to our veterans.” He goes on to say, “It’s time to fix the Choice Program – as well as the department’s other non-VA care efforts – once and for all by merging them into a single, streamlined community care program that’s easy to use for Veterans and VA employees.
America’s Veterans are looking to Congress and VA to come together now to provide them the best possible solutions for their care. Your VA will be working overtime to achieve the promise of leaving no veteran waiting for care.”
Listening to this rhetoric, it is MY hope that Mr. Wilkie is NOT the next nominee for the position unless he promises not to seek PRIVATIZATION of the VA if confirmed by the US Senate.
If you missed any of my earlier articles you can go to the Veterans Reporter News webpage at <https://www.veteransreporternews.com/> to review any Back Issues.
I hear from MANY readers about my articles (most are positive) and I thank you for your positive or challenging “constructive” comments. Feel free to contact me if you believe any of the information provided is inaccurate or if you have additional information that I can share with our readers.