On this Veterans Day, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said President Donald Trump is fulfilling a signature promise from his 2016 campaign to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Since taking office, Trump has relieved over 8,000 Veterans Affairs employees for failing their duty, Wilkie told reporters.
“The standard is if you don’t live up to your oath if you don’t live up to the standards that our veterans expect, that you will be asked to leave,” Wilkie said. “This is a transformational moment in our history.”
Wilkie said that, under Trump, VA employees as high level as network directors down to the lowest level employees were removed for not performing to the proper standards.
“This is, I think, one of the strongest statements that we can make: That it is a new day at VA,” Wilkie said.
Trump fired Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin in 2018 and replaced him with Wilkie.
Wilkie lauded Trump for putting veterans’ care at the top of his priority list.
“There has never been a President who has given this much attention to America’s veterans or allowed for more transformation to go on in the lives of veterans in this department than this President has,” Wilkie said.
Trump spoke about the importance of Veterans Affairs accountability in October, during a speech on health care at The Villages in Florida.
“Do you remember all of the bad stories that used to be about the VA?” he asked. “Now you don’t see that because they have accountability. We can fire bad people. We fired a tremendous number of really bad people that should’ve been fired years ago. I don’t like firing people, but I like firing people that don’t treat our vets great, that aren’t doing their job.”
Wilkie said Trump has delivered the largest budget for Veterans Affairs in its history and noted that the department in 2018 achieved the highest patient satisfaction rates in its history at 89.7 percent.
The success of the MISSION Act, which allows veterans the ability to have the choice to seek care in the private sector when the VA could not give them the care that they needed, is also a huge accomplishment for the Trump administration, Wilkie said.
“This puts veterans at the center of their healthcare decisions, not the institutional prerogatives of VA, but veterans,” he said.
Wilkie said in-progress and upcoming veterans’ initiatives include understanding and preventing suicides and addiction. He said 60 percent of veterans who committed suicide were not in Veterans Affairs care and that a new approach will help the VA work with local organizations to find military veterans suffering from depression.