The VA should be held accountable for failing the men and women who sacrificed so much for our country
America has a sacred obligation to its veterans. In recognition of their service and sacrifice, we are committed to their well-being as they transition out of service, receive health care, and return to civilian life. Unfortunately, America has been failing its veterans. Rampant fraud and malpractice at the Department of Veterans Affairs have led to fatal delays in the provision of health care. Evan McMullin will transform veterans’ health care so that every veteran can choose their health care provider, regardless of where they live or how long they’ve been waiting for treatment. At the same time, Evan will make the VA accountable to patients and their families, so that all veterans who choose VA care receive the high-quality treatment they deserve.
In Phoenix, almost 300 veterans died because they were unable to receive care from the VA. Across the country, VA officials manipulated data in order to conceal how long veterans had to wait for care. Meanwhile, the organization handed out more than $140 million in bonuses to its employees in 2014. Little changed after these scandals came to light. In May, the VA’s own data showed that more than half a million veterans were stuck waiting more than a month for care—an increase of 150,000 from just six months earlier.
Standing up for veterans
Our veterans deserve a president who has been with them every step of the way—not one whose support is dependent upon the prevailing political winds. As a CIA officer, Evan McMullin worked closely with U.S. military personnel in some of the most dangerous places on Earth. He knows the kind of sacrifices our veterans make as well as the challenges of returning home from the front lines.
Long after the VA’s failures became apparent, Hillary Clinton downplayed the extent of fraud and neglect at the agency, claiming it has “not been as widespread as it has been made out to be.” She said that criticism of the VA was just part of her opponents’ “ideological agenda.” More recently, Clinton has tried to cover her tracks and portray herself as a VA reformer. This is unacceptable.
Donald Trump also talks about reforming the VA while treating veterans as a political prop. In January, Trump claimed to have raised $6 million for veterans, including a $1 million personal donation. Four months later, the Washington Post found not only that the $6 million sum was exaggerated, but that Trump himself hadn’t given a penny. At that point, Trump finally wrote a check. Clearly, Trump is willing to scam anyone and everyone in his quest for attention and money—even veterans.
Reforming the VA
Evan McMullin will never dismiss the problems facing our veterans nor try to use them as props. He believes that the Veterans Health Administration needs a complete overhaul to ensure that it becomes accountable for the quality and timeliness of its care. Evan believes strongly that all veterans should be able to choose the health care provider that best meets their needs.
For many veterans, the VA remains the best option for healthcare. In certain fields, such as prosthetics and mental health, the VA is still a leader in the medical community. Yet countless veterans would prefer to get care at their local clinic or from a nationally prominent provider such as the Cleveland Clinic.
In 2014, Congress sought to give veterans more healthcare options by passing the Choice Program, which allows veterans to receive care locally if they live 40 miles from a VA facility or cannot get an appointment at the VA within 30 days. Regrettably, the impact of the program has been limited by poor implementation and too few veterans are eligible regardless.
Evan believes that all veterans should be able to choose their health care provider, regardless of where they live or how long they have been waiting for appointments. He favors a premium support program that would allow veterans to choose from a wide range of policies, including traditional VA coverage. Medicare-eligible veterans would have the option of using VA funding to help pay Medicare premiums. After all, if we trusted our veterans with the defense of our nation, we should respect them enough to let them to choose their healthcare provider.
Another step to expand choice is requiring VA pharmacies to fill prescriptions from non-VA doctors. Under the current system, patients are often required to visit with a VA doctor to confirm outside prescriptions, which only delays treatment. It should also be easier for patients to book appointments online. Getting an appointment to see a doctor should be an intuitive and accessible experience for all veterans.
Next, we need to increase transparency and accountability at the VA. If VA officials don’t do their jobs or cover up their failures, they should be fired. While recent changes make it easier to fire incompetent senior executives, every VA employee should be accountable for his or her actions. Evan would also work to ensure whistleblowers receive the legal protection they deserve if they bring wrongdoing to light. The VA should also have to meet clearly defined performance targets so that the public knows if it’s doing its job. No investigation should be required to determine if the VA is providing high quality care when our veterans need it.
Evan McMullin has spent much of his life in service to his country. He understands the sacrifices veterans have made, and shares with all Americans a deep sense of gratitude for their service. Taking care of our veterans is simply about doing the right thing. Evan believes that wars don’t end when the fighting stops. They end when we have fulfilled our obligation to care for those who defend our freedom.