President-elect Trump is considering a “public-private option” at the Department of Veterans Affairs that would allow all veterans to choose whether they want to receive care from the VA or from private doctors.

“We think we have to have kind of a … public-private option, because some vets love the VA … some vets want to go to the VA,” a transition official told reporters at Mar-a-Lago on Wednesday.

“So, the idea is to come up with a solution that solves the problem. And it’s not the easiest thing in the world because you’ve got all these little kingdoms out there, which is hard,” the official said. “You know, in the federal government, it’s hard to break things up and start over. So, those are the types of things that people are talking about.”

The transition team said Trump is also weighing the creation of an advisory committee to help him navigate the VA reform process.

Trump dedicated a significant portion of his campaign to veterans issues, often hailing the VA as the prime example of how government bureaucracies had failed under the Obama administration.

The agency was rocked by the biggest scandal in its history when, in 2014, whistleblowers exposed the existence of secret patient waiting lists at 110 VA facilities around the country. The fabricated lists covered up long delays in care.

Congress quickly passed bipartisan legislation that created a two-year pilot program that would allow veterans to seek care in the private sector if they lived too far from a VA hospital, could not secure an appointment in a timely fashion, or had a condition which required specialists that the closest VA hospital lacked.

But in the years since, the VA and some Democrats have resisted efforts to expand the choice program by arguing that the effort could lay the groundwork for privatization.

Trump’s 10-point plan for VA reform, which he rolled out during the campaign, had included a pledge to “[e]nsure every veteran has the choice to seek care at the VA or at a private service provider of their own choice.”

Obama, Trump clash over who is calling the shots

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Obama and Trump’s at first surprisingly cordial rapport has devolved into an occasionally bitter public feud.

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The public-private partnership model is actually popular in both parties. For example, Hillary Clinton’s campaign acknowledged “the need to encourage private partnerships.”

No Democratic or Republican lawmaker has proposed privatizing the VA, a sprawling entity that provides healthcare to millions of veterans and employs more people than every other federal agency besides the Pentagon.

Even so, Trump has been accused of wanting to privatize the VA. His latest proposal could open the door to further criticism of “privatization” plans from Democrats wary of such a major overhaul at one of the largest departments.

Obama clashes with Trump over who should be calling the shots

Top Story

Obama and Trump’s at first surprisingly cordial rapport has devolved into an occasionally bitter public feud.

12/29/16 12:43 AM

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