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As efforts to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs continue, there’s an ongoing debate about the best way to fix a system mired in bureaucracy and haunted by past scandal. While some argue in favor of VA privatization, either in part or in full, others and most recently, the president, are in favor of continued VA reform.
"The notion of dismantling the VA system would be a mistake," said President Barack Obama during a June 2 exclusive interview with The Colorado Springs Gazette. "If you look at, for example, VA health care, there have been challenges getting people into the system. Once they are in, they are extremely satisfied and the quality of care is very high."
The president said attempts to privatize the VA would delay the progress his administration has made toward modernizing the department.
"It's a big ocean liner, and on any given day, given how far-flung the agency is, we're still seeing problems crop up that we have to correct,” said Obama, who spoke to The Gazette’s Megan Schrader while visiting the Air Force Academy in Colorado where the president delivered the commencement speech. “I think the main message is that we've still got a lot of work to do. It's an all-hands-on-deck process."
Currently, the VA does allow for some private care, though it’s limited to specific situations due to the Veterans Access, Choice And Accountability Act, which Obama signed into law in 2014. The bill created the Choice Program which required the VA to contract with private providers if veterans lived more than 40 miles from a VA clinic or had waited longer than 30 days for an appointment. However, the initial launch of the Choice Program was fraught with confusion, with both patients and care providers unclear on the requirements for eligibility.
The subject of whether — and to what extent — veterans are able to obtain health care from private industries has been the subject of contentious partisan debate. Sen. John McCain of Arizona has proposed a new plan that makes the Choice Card universal and permanent, which would allow all disabled veterans to receive care from community doctors, regardless of distance or wait time.
Alternatively, others, including Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana who would rather see VA policy and plans further reformed instead of repealed or replaced by private care.
In May, the Veterans First Act was passed allowing for greater latitude in dealing with bad actors, and safeguards for whistleblowers within the VA, as well as provisions designed to provide patients with greater flexibility.
“The mission for the VA is clear: Make sure veterans can get the care they need in a timely manner,” Tester wrote in an op-ed for Task & Purpose. Tester helped write part of the bill. “With the Veterans First Act, I believe we give the VA the tools it needs to succeed and Congress the tools it needs to ensure the VA keeps its promises.”
The admiral in charge of Navy special operators will decide whether to revoke the tridents for Eddie Gallagher and other SEALs involved in the Navy's failed attempt to prosecute Gallagher for murder, a defense official said Tuesday.
The New York Times' David Philipps first reported on Tuesday that the Navy could revoke the SEAL tridents for Gallagher as well as his former platoon commander Lt. Jacob Portier and two other SEALs: Lt. Cmdr. Robert Breisch and Lt. Thomas MacNeil.
The four SEALs will soon receive a letter that they have to appear before a board that will consider whether their tridents should be revoked, a defense official told Task & Purpose on condition of anonymity.
‘It’s Lt. Col. Vindman’ — Active-duty witness in Trump impeachment inquiry sharply corrects congressman
Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman made sure to take the time to correct a Congressman on Tuesday while testifying before Congress, requesting that he be addressed by his officer rank and not "Mr."
'What happens after that is out of their control' — Former military leaders and lawyers react to Trump's war crimes pardons
On Friday, President Donald Trump intervened in the cases of three U.S. service members accused of war crimes, granting pardons to two Army soldiers accused of murder in Afghanistan and restoring the rank of a Navy SEAL found guilty of wrongdoing in Iraq.
While the statements coming out of the Pentagon regarding Trump's actions have been understandably measured, comments from former military leaders and other knowledgable veterans help paint a picture as to why the president's Friday actions are so controversial.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. aircraft carrier strike group Abraham Lincoln sailed through the vital Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday, U.S. officials told Reuters, amid simmering tensions between Iran and the United States.
Tensions in the Gulf have risen since attacks on oil tankers this summer, including off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, and a major assault on energy facilities in Saudi Arabia. Washington has blamed Iran, which has denied being behind the attacks on global energy infrastructure.
Iran continues to support the Taliban to counter U.S. influence in Afghanistan, a recent Defense Intelligence Agency report on Iran's military power says.
Iran's other goals in Afghanistan include combating ISIS-Khorasan and increasing its influence in any government that is formed as part of a political reconciliation of the warring sides, according to the report, which the Pentagon released on Tuesday.