Jeb Bush Blasts Clinton for 'Insulting' Veterans

By Westwood, Sarah | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, October 27, 2015 | Go to article overview

Jeb Bush Blasts Clinton for 'Insulting' Veterans


Westwood, Sarah, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


Jeb Bush joined the chorus of Republicans blasting Hillary Clinton for suggesting the Department of Veterans Affairs' problems have been overblown when he called her comments "an insult" to veterans Tuesday.

The former Florida governor touted his own plan to overhaul the VA, which includes expanding veterans' access to private care if they choose to leave the VA system.

Clinton stirred controversy last week when she accused Republicans of exploiting concerns about the VA in order to advance a partisan plan to "privatize" the agency.

"I don't understand why we have such a problem, because there have been a number of surveys of veterans and, overall, veterans who do get treated are satisfied with their treatment," Clinton told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Friday.

"Now, nobody would believe that from the coverage that you see and the constant berating of the VA that comes from the Republicans," she added.

While Clinton acknowledged the "scandal" that has struck the VA in recent years, she said it has "not been as widespread as it has been made out to be."

"If there is a waiting period that is just unacceptable you should be able, in a sense, [to] get the opportunity to go out and have a private physician take care of you, but at the cost of the VA," Clinton said, alluding to a "veteran's choice" program that has been popular with Republicans.

The choice program allows veterans to obtain private sector health care using VA funds. However, agency officials successfully pushed Congress to allow them to raid funding for the program earlier this year to cover budget shortfalls created by troubled VA hospitals.

Clinton said the VA's struggle "goes deeper" than the long waiting periods that have caused controversy over the past year.

"If you look at not only VA healthcare but at the backlog of disability determinations, there's something not working within the bureaucracy, and I have said, I would like to literally appoint a SWAT team. I mean, bring in people and just tackle the disability, have an ongoing review of the care that is being given, do more to ensure that every VA hospital is delivering care to the highest standard of the community because unfortunately some are doing a lot better job than others are," Clinton said.

The VA did indeed score well on the 2013 American Customer Satisfaction Index, which ranked aspects of VA care on a 0-100 scale. Inpatient care received a rating of 84, while customer service earned a 91.

Veterans groups criticized the survey, however, because it polled only veterans who did not get any kind of treatment outside VA facilities.

"This ignores an obvious reality that the Veterans Administration should be all too familiar with -- veterans are not like non- veterans. What we think is great may be subpar to non-veterans," a group called Disabled Veterans wrote in a blog post shortly after the survey's release.

According to a survey commissioned by Concerned Veterans for America that was conducted earlier this month, a majority of all veterans believe it is "extremely important" to allow VA patients to have healthcare options outside of the government-run system.

"Despite yearly budgetary increases in the billions, and a workforce twice the size of the Marine Corps, the problems of long wait times, poor customer service and lack of accountability continue to pervade the VA," John Cooper, spokesman for Concerned Veterans for America, told the Washington Examiner.

"Mrs. Clinton may want to minimize the problems at the VA, but veterans recognize the VA desperately needs reform," Cooper added. "It is unfortunate that politicians like Mrs. Clinton refuse to put forth solutions that will give veterans the choice and accountability they deserve."

Clinton called criticisms of the VA "a perfect example of the way that the Republicans try to have it both ways."

"They try to create a downward spiral. Don't fund it to the extent that it needs to be funded because we want it to fail so that we can argue for privatization," she said. …

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