NORFOLK, Virginia (CNN) — Donald Trump unveiled his plan Saturday to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs, promising to create a more modern and lower-cost department while also allowing veterans to opt for a private health care provider.
Flanked by a group of veterans and with the USS Wisconsin serving as the backdrop, Trump pledged at a campaign event here that he would cut down wait times, rein in bureaucracy and put the VA’s health care centers in competition with private health care providers.
Trump said under his presidency, veterans would be able to use their ID card to “get care immediately” at any private provider that accepts Medicare. He claimed that his plan would be more effective and “cost us less money.”
“They have earned the freedom to choose,” Trump proclaimed. “We’re going to transform the VA to meet the needs of the 21st century … We’re going to make the VA great again.”
Trump also talked up other proposals to help veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including providing incentives for companies to hire veterans, providing business loans to veterans and overall ensuring veterans enjoy a more seamless transition to civilian life.
Speaking in a city that serves as a naval hub, Trump emphasized that his plan would modernize the department and ensure that services “support the whole veteran,” including access to both physical and mental healthcare.
A policy paper posted to Trump’s campaign website Saturday added additional details, including the requirement of OBGYN doctors at all VA hospitals, upgrades in technology at the VA and hiring more veterans to care for veterans. Trump also pledged to fire “the corrupt and incompetent VA executives that let out veterans down.”
But Trump did not say how much his plan would cost the federal government or how he would pay for his proposals.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has become a political lightning rod since a CNN investigation last year revealed that veterans were sometimes waiting months to get care, in some cases resulting in deaths in cases where illnesses were treatable.
The scandal led to the resignation of the department’s top official, the firing of several senior officials and drew the close scrutiny of Congress.
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