By Dr. Tom Waters, Lt. Colonel, USAF (Ret), Ed.D. – VA and VA Healthcare
I watched the nearly two-hour Senate Confirmation Hearing of Mr. Robert Wilkie for the position of Secretary of the Veterans Administration and from his Opening statement to his final answers to the questioning from the Senators, I wholeheartedly indorse his confirmation. As one Senator stated, he had been confirmed several times for other positions and was not only “ready” to answer the questions, he “anticipated” which questions would be asked.
If you would like to watch the Hearing that took place on June 27th, 2018, just enter this ‘link’ into your computer browser and you also get to hear the comments from our very own Senator Dean Heller. Here’s the ‘link: https://www.c-span.org/video/?447397-1/va-secretary-nominee-robert-wilkie-testifies-confirmation-hearing.
The vote on his confirmation will occur sometime in July or early August 2018.
Mr. Wilkie also made the comment from something he saw as a youth as he was passing a VA Hospital that stayed with him. The statement that read, “The Price of Freedom is Visible Here” had a serious meaning for him personally while understanding that his father was recovering from his wounds from combat in Vietnam.
As I listened to Mr. Wilkie as he spoke about himself who was born in Germany while his father served in the US Army. He calls himself an “Army Brat who had camouflaged diapers.”
As a matter of fact, in his ‘Opening Statement,’ he said, “Mr. Chairman my own life changed when my father returned from his second combat tour in Vietnam. I was seven when we received a message that he had been terribly wounded. When he came home after a year in military hospitals, he weighed less than half of what he did when he left us. I watched his agonizing recovery and that experience was on my mind when I was asked to come to VA.”
Let’s remember who Mr. Wilkie is and review his background while deciding if he has the qualifications for handling this awesome job and responsibility. In my opinion, he definitely has the qualifications if only he will be allowed to do his job when confirmed. Mr. Wilkie is an American lawyer who was serving also as the Under-Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness for the Department of Defense.
Does he understand Veterans and their needs? Again, I say “YES.” And, even though his father retired from the US Army, Mr. Wilkie is NOT a military retiree because Mr. Wilkie is still 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.
He also covered VA responsibilities in the areas of: Benefits, Health, and Cemeteries. The Senators questioned him in these and other areas. They also spoke about his predecessors and some of the reasons that might have caused their “removal” from the position. My concern was and still is, “If he says all the things I want him to say, what will his boss, the President say, and will he be another casualty for disagreeing with the President?”
So, let’s discuss how he answered the questions “we” hold so dearly. What did he say about Privatizing the VA and what are his views on expansion of the CHOICE Program?
We have a right to be concerned, no, not about his confirmation because I believe that will be a cake-walk, but because of his longevity after his confirmation. Where will he stand with the President? Please know that he was NOT apologetic when he said that the VA should never be privatized because the Private Sector doesn’t “speak the military language” and doesn’t have the qualifications to understand TBI, hearing loss from airplanes, tanks, and weapons fire, and other uniquely Veteran Injuries like the trauma that goes with the loss of limbs.
When it came to the CHOICE Program, he agreed with the Senators that taking funding away from the VA to expand the CHOICE Program was detrimental to the overall VA Healthcare System and the other components of the VA System. He did agree, as I have stated many times, that we NEED a “tailored” CHOICE Program in rural areas and those areas when it is difficult to get to a VA Clinic or Hospital. A six-hour round trip journey to visit a hospital is not realistic so a “tailored” CHOICE Program there is required.
He promised to take his cues from Veterans and the Veteran Community that make up of the various Veteran Organizations. He also agreed that since the Veteran force is now 10% women, we need to increase those areas of healthcare for women.
As you can tell, I believe that Mr. Wilkie is perfect for the position of Secretary of the VA.
If you want to read his “Opening Statement” in its entirety, just go to this link:https://www.veterans.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Wilkie%20Testimony%206.27.2018.pdf
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.