With all the hysteria in Washington over non-stories like the possible revocation of security clearances for leakers and liars who never should have had them in the first place, you probably never even heard one of the most important stories from Monday’s news: the Senate confirmed Robert Wilkie, President Trump’s pick as Secretary of Veterans Affairs, by a surprisingly lopsided 86-9 vote. But that’s misleading: this is the first time in the 30-year history of that post that any Senators have voted against a President's nominee. And this isn't entirely the predictable Trump Derangement Syndrome.
Wilkie is incredibly well-qualified, having been assistant secretary of defense under George W. Bush and Pentagon undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. He also vowed to “shake up complacency” at the VA, which is desperately needed, and my use of the word “desperate” is not hyperbole. Veterans have actually been dying on waiting lists for care, and that unconscionable fact was covered up as if protecting VA bureaucrats' paychecks were more important than protecting the lives and health of our veterans. I wouldn’t just shake up the VA, I’d slap it around a little, and I’m famously nice! So why the unprecedented opposition to Wilkie?
You won’t be surprised to learn that the opposition spans the ideological spectrum from far-left to farther-lefter; from Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Ed Markey, etc. to outright socialist Bernie Sanders. Their big objections seem to be fear that Markey will fire VA employees for their political views, not their poor performance (I have a feeling that really means that if they hold liberal political views, they shouldn’t be fired no matter how poor their performance is) and that Wilkie will be open to “privatizing” the VA – which translates as “giving veterans the option of seeking private medical care, the type Senators enjoy, rather than waiting around for government care until they die.”
I have the feeling that if we could change the law to force Congress members to get their health care from the VA, virtually overnight, our veterans would finally start getting the type of choice and high quality care they deserve.