In a teleprompter speech that was subdued compared to a fiery rally the night before, President Donald Trump addressed the American Legion and lauded the Department of Veterans Affairs’ efforts to reform and improve its healthcare system.
Trump said he promised the Legion a year ago that, if elected, his administration would take steps to reform VA healthcare following its 2014 wait times scandal. He praised Secretary David Shulkin as a “true reformer” who is leading the effort.
The VA now posts wait times for all of its facilities online, Trump said, and it offers emergency mental health services at every facility. He said that his administration will be holding VA staff more accountable for the care they provide.
“Somebody that works at the VA and is bad to the people of the VA ... well, we look at them and say, ‘You’re fired,’” Trump told the crowd, using his well-known catch phrase from the reality TV show The Apprentice.
The VA has faced intense scrutiny in the wake of the wait time scandal. Since then, hospitals from North Carolina to Houston to the District of Columbia have come under fire for practices that may have put patients at risk.
In rebounding from that scandal, the agency took a three step approach, said Poonam Agaih, M.D., its acting undersecretary for health. The goal centers on allowing veterans more choices for their care, she said, while improving access.
Part of that response included creating the Veterans Choice program, which Trump also touted in his remarks. The program hit a major budget shortfall earlier this year, though Congress was able to pass a last-minute measure to fund it through the end of 2017.
Trump said his administration has “dramatically increased” the number of veterans able to see the doctor of their choice through the program. Plus, the Trump administration has launched a White House VA hotline, he said, to keep in better contact with veterans about their concerns.
Watch Trump’s full remarks to the American Legion below: