Politics 101 – My Thoughts on VA HEALTHCARE and STILL Looking for a New Permanent VA Secretary.

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By Dr. Tom Waters – VA and VA Healthcare

The President made a surprise announcement when he announced that he would nominate the Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Mr. Robert Wilkie, for the position as the permanent VA Secretary. With that announcement, the Senatorial Confirmation Hearings are set up again to see if we can get a VA Secretary that can remain in place long enough to be of value to the nation’s Veteran population.

Let’s go back and find out who Mr. Wilkie is and learn his background while deciding if he has the qualifications for handling this awesome job and responsibility. Mr. Wilkie is an American lawyer who was serving also as the Under-Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.

While his father retired from the US Army, Mr. Wilkie is NOT yet considered a Veteran of the United States military. That’s because Mr. Wilkie is a reserve officer in the US Air Force Reserve assigned to the Office of the Chief of Staff. Prior to joining the Air Force, he served in the US Navy Reserve with the Joint Forces Intelligence Command, Naval Special Warfare Group Two and the Office of Naval Intelligence.

It was my HOPE that the President would listen to veterans and veteran organizations before making another nomination but it remains my belief that the President is using the VA Secretary position to pursue his campaign promise to “Privatize” the entire VA Healthcare System. My hope for the person to be nominated for the position of VA Secretary is well known. I believe having Veteran Status is a primary qualification. I suggested that, if I had my preference, I would prefer that any Nominee have “Command Experience” and be a retired Senior NCO or retired Senior Officer. Being retired would give them some insight into the needs of the VA and the veterans who rely on it.

Yes, I know that I stated in my last article, “…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.” While I haven’t heard his response to privatization, he did say, “Congress must pass the 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.” Now, my hope is that Mr. Wilkie, if confirmed by the US Senate, will prove me wrong by supporting the needs of Veterans and not merely pushing CHOICE and PRIVATIZATION to help the President keep a campaign promise.

Yes, I stand by my statement even before I find out whether the Veterans Organizations support or oppose Mr. Wilkie’s nomination. I do admit that his background in the Department of Defense and the Air Force and Naval Reserve Forces might have prepared him for what he’ll face in the VA but I’ll follow the Senatorial confirmation questions and answers closely before deciding if this was another Presidential mistake. The mistakes I refer to, in MY opinion, are the firing of Dr. David Shulkin and the nomination of Dr. Ronny Jackson.

While Mr. Wilkie was confirmed in November 2017 by the US Senate for his current position, he also helped to guide others through this process. He receives credit for aiding James Mattis, Robert Gates, and Admiral Mike Mullen through the US Senate confirmation process. He was also responsible for preparing General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Coker for multiple appearances before the Congress as they defended several of their positions including the Iraqi Surge.

Even with all of his accomplishments, while he was elevated to the position of Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs, he was slated to return to his Department of Defense job as the Under-Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. This was to occur when Dr. Ronny Jackson was confirmed by the US Senate which, of course, did not occur.

This background has definitely prepared him for dodging the pitfalls of national politics and Congressional hearings.

The questions that remain are: where he stands on PRIVATIZATION of the VA along with which CHOICE Program he will endorse? Answers to these questions are crucial for me to offer my support.

I want to leave this article with another “by personal experience” situation that occurred with PRIVATIZATION in the Air Force. When we privatized an Aircraft Maintenance unit the winner of the contract had a “No Strike” clause in the contract. Within 2 years, we lost all military expertise and fully relied on the contractor to maintain the aircraft. The contractor requested an “increase” in the funding of the contract. When it was denied, the contractor went on STRIKE. The Air Force pulled maintainers from throughout the Air Force in an attempt to maintain the Flying Schedule but it was like starting over from Technical School. The US Federal Court forced the Contractor to end the strike but, by then, it was merely a matter of dollars and the lessons learned about PRIVATIZATION.

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.