McDonald to Trump administration: Don’t backtrack VA progress

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  Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald.  Stars and Stripes file photo
From Stripes.com
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald. Stars and Stripes file photo

McDonald to Trump administration: Don’t backtrack VA progress

by: Nikki Wentling | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: January 06, 2017

WASHINGTON — In the wake of President-elect Donald Trump signaling big changes at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Secretary Bob McDonald appealed to the new administration Thursday in an exit memo not to abandon initiatives that he started at the agency during his two-year tenure.

“It’s critical to maintain the momentum we have built in transforming the department to best serve veterans,” McDonald wrote in the memo required from all Cabinet members by President Barack Obama. “I urge VA’s next secretary to make these key goals of the new administration at VA.”

McDonald asked that his replacement continue his transformation effort, “MyVA.” He also laid out his “vision for the future,” listing priorities for the next VA secretary that includes reforming the process for veterans to get private care.

But Trump has said he considering more sweeping changes for the department, and Concerned Veterans for America – an advocacy group with a foothold in the Trump transition team – has called for major changes from the “dysfunctional status quo.”

McDonald pushed for the Trump administration to go with his alternative to Veterans Choice, a program established in 2014 for veterans to receive private care. The Choice program is set to run out of funding in 2017 and some veterans have complained it has been confusing to navigate. McDonald’s alternative would establish one set of criteria to designate what veterans are eligible for private care and when.

However, Trump has said he is looking at plans that further expand services for veterans in the private sector.

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