Calling the Department of Veterans Affairs "a total disaster," business mogul Donald Trump unveiled his plan to reform the beleaguered department in front of thousands at a Saturday rally in Norfolk, Virginia.
With the USS Wisconsin, a retired World War II-era battleship, docked behind him and with a number of veterans flanking the podium, Trump called for all veterans eligible for health care at VA hospitals to be allowed the same care at any hospital that accepts Medicare. This, according to Trump, would increase competition and decrease wait times.
Trump also called for "firing the corrupt and incompetent VA executives" and claimed his plan would end all waste, fraud and abuse. For returning veterans, Trump pledged to increase job training and to incentivize companies to hire them.
What was missing from Trump's plan was specifics on how the plan would be paid for.
"Under this plan, we'll ensure the VA is spending its dollars wisely, not corruptly," Trump said. "I believe a lot of it's corruption, personally. Nobody can be that incompetent."
With classic Trump braggadocio, he claimed simply spending money more efficiently would pay for his plan.
"The Trump plan will clean up VA finances so the current VA budget provides more and better care than it does now," Trump said. "We'll have money actually left over."
Trump also addressed how he would increase support to female veterans. He said that all VA hospitals should be permanently staffed with an obstetrician.
The USS Wisconsin was where 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney presented now-Speaker Paul Ryan as his running mate, but of course, Trump claimed that his rally drew more supporters. It certainly was one of Trump's largest crowds in weeks, even with slipping poll numbers that show that he is no longer the consensus front-runner for the Republican nomination.
Before Trump spoke, an 11-piece funk band called Right On warmed up the crowd. Most of the band wore all red, while the lead singer wore a white suit, to match the Make America Great hats that are seen throughout Trump rallies. The band even played a parody of Van Halen's "Jump," but subbed in Trump's name instead.
Being that it was Halloween, it was perhaps not surprising that at least one man showed up dressed up in a Trump costume.}
Ron and Andrea Geyer, who have been married for nearly 30 years, traveled from nearby Chesapeake to catch the rally. Ron is a retired Navy pilot who flew F-14 jets for 20 years in some of the world's most dangerous places, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia. The two, originally from New Jersey, are trying to decide between Trump and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for their vote.
"Everything [Trump] says has been very supportive of us," Ron said. "Get our military back to the greatness. I think he has a deep concern for the veterans and guys and girls who are having problems. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and all that. He's really in tune with what needs to be done."
"We're tired of seeing the military get crapped on," Andrea chimed in.
When asked what kind of reforms he'd like to see for the VA, Ron said, "A lot more mental health stuff. A lot more to help the guys with the PTSD. They really need to do more on that. It seems like it's gotten better, but it really needs to get way up there."
Trump's plan does call for increasing funding to fight PTSD, including brain injury and suicide prevention services.
"With these steps," the plan reads, "the Trump plan will help the veteran community put the unnecessary stigma surrounding mental health behind them and instead encourage acceptance and treatment in our greater society."
Next week, Trump is releasing another, much longer piece of text. It's his new book, titled "Crippled America." That's just a couple days before Trump takes the stage at Studio 8H at Rockefeller Center, where he will host "Saturday Night Live" for the second time.