The buzz in Washington, DC and around the country this week is on President Trump’s first 100 days in office. The first 100 days’ mark is meant to give us an indication of how the new president is doing so far, and what we can expect to see over the rest of his time in office. While the major focus will be on tax reform and the Supreme Court, President Trump spent the first 100 days busy on veterans’ issues as well.
Here are some VA highlights from President Trump’s first 100 days:
- Nomination of VA Secretary David Shulkin – This is one of the best moves made by President Trump so far. Dr. Shulkin’s nomination drew some skepticism, as he was a holdover from the Obama administration – however, he is proving to be a real advocate of change and success at the VA. Dr. Shulkin was unanimously confirmed by the Senate, which is all but impossible in Washington these days. That serves as an indication of Shulkin’s qualifications for the job and dedication to veterans. In the months that have followed since his swearing in, Secretary Shulkin has stated that accountability at the VA and choice for veterans in their health care are at the top of his priority list. We have yet to see most of his priorities come to fruition, but it’s still early.
- Reauthorization of the Choice Program – If changing the Choice Program were a book, reauthorizing the current program would be the preface rather than the first chapter. The current program is ineffective, poorly implemented and needs to be redesigned, but continuing it past its sunset date buys time for Congress to move on real reform. Secretary Shulkin has called for better integration with the private sector in providing health care – calling his updates “Choice 2.0.” Though Choice reform is still very much in the works, the foundation is being laid for sweeping reform.
- Focus on accountability efforts – Big steps have been taken to bring accountability to the VA, but those steps aren’t enough. The House passed the VA Accountability First Act of 2017 with bipartisan support. The VA Secretary is pleading for more authority to fire bad employees in his department in the wake of VA’s inability to immediately fire an employee caught watching porn with a patient. Despite the positive moves from the House and VA Secretary, accountability has stalled in the Senate. Passing reform is now in their hands. President Trump built on his promise to “drain the swamp” at the VA through an Executive Order signed this week. The Order creates an Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection to identify “barriers” to disciplining bad employees. It’s a good move, but again, the Senate needs to move on accountability legislation to give this new office some teeth.
Landmark changes have yet to be made at the VA, but those changes seem to be within range. The first 100 days for the VA under the Trump administration look pretty good. Together the White House, VA Secretary, and the House have made positive moves towards accountability and choice. Let’s hope the Senate gets on board soon!
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