Veterans Affairs secretary: "No way" administration will privatize VA

VA secretary on agency's challenges

Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin reiterated that President Donald Trump’s administration is “in no way” trying to privatize the VA, after Mr. Trump earlier this week signed a law extending private care options for veterans. 

“In no way are we seeking to privatize the VA,” Shulkin said Saturday on “CBS This Morning,” adding that the VA needs to work “closer” with the private sector to use an “integrated” approach to veteran care. 

Shulkin said when he took office that he was against privatizing the VA, a stance that stirred fears from some conservatives that the Obama-era holdover would continue the status quo at the VA. 

Wounded vet frustrated with weeks-long delays in local VA

Shulkin’s latest remarks came two days after the president signed a law eliminating the August expiration date of a program born out of the 2014 VA wait time scandal. The new law allows enrolled veterans to see doctors in their communities instead of waiting for a VA appointment. 

Shulkin wouldn’t reveal any details about a press conference Mr. Trump will hold next week about veterans issues, but said the news conference will cover the “tremendous progress” the VA has made.

Three years after the wait time scandal, many VA medical centers are still forcing veterans to wait for care. Last year, former VA Secretary Robert McDonald -- who took the helm to reform wait times in the wake of the 2014 scandal -- made headlines when he compared the wait times to long lines at Disneyland. Federal authorities have also stepped up investigations at VA medical centers due to a startling increase in opioid theft, missing prescriptions and unauthorized drug use by VA employees, according to government data the Associated Press obtained earlier this year

Shulkin said there’s a “bipartisan” commitment to fixing the VA under Mr. Trump.

“Well, what I’m seeing is really a bipartisan commitment to making sure that we fix the issues that have been plaguing the VA for years, and what I’m seeing is just a consistent desire to move quickly and to make some hard decisions to fix the VA,” Shulkin said.