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VIDEO: Rep. Ocasio-Cortez doubles down on VA issues as ‘myth’ – veterans group responds

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at SXSW 2019. (Ståle Grut /NRKbeta/Flickr)
April 30, 2019

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has doubled down on comments supporting the quality of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare despite pushback from the veteran community.

“You might have heard Fox News talking about it, because there is a myth that all VAs everywhere are broken,” Ocasio-Cortez said at a town hall in Queens on Saturday.

Watch her remarks in the video below:

“If we can starve them of budgets and make sure they can’t do their job, then we can say the whole system should be thrown away,” she continued. “I’m not going to back down from protecting the VA.”

“I’m not going to back down from saying we should fund it, because it’s not about throwing away the entire system. It’s about hiring the 40,000 vacancies that are necessary to give the medical care that they deserve,” she said.

A week earlier, Ocasio-Cortez spoke at another town hall where she said the VA already provides “some of the highest quality care” and declared, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

“We have a responsibility to protect it. If there is any community that deserves Cadillac, first-class healthcare in the United States of America, it is our military service members,” she added.

Many in the veteran community were dissatisfied with Ocasio-Cortez’s assertion, with one group even speaking out against the congresswoman’s remarks.

“The Congresswoman is off base with her assessment. Just because some veterans in the VA system are getting good care, doesn’t mean all are. And for those who are not, they deserve more choices so they can get the care they need,” Nate Anderson, executive director of Concerned Veterans of America (CVA) and a former Green Beret, told American Military News.

“One-size-fits-all bureaucratic policies don’t work for a group as diverse and unique as our veterans population. Reforming the VA isn’t privatization, it’s simply making the VA one choice for veterans, not the only choice,” Anderson added.

Ocasio-Cortez’s comments took aim at efforts made by the Trump Administration to expand privatization options for veterans’ healthcare, especially through the MISSION Act signed by President Donald Trump in 2018, which streamlined programs, and expanded eligibility and infrastructure.

Despite her resistance to change the VA system, veterans overwhelmingly want to see changes and more care choices.

CVA commissioned a poll that found that 53 percent of veterans say that receiving care through the VA is too difficult, and 56 percent say the wait times are too high. Further, 90 percent of veterans favor the choice to use VA healthcare benefits outside the VA system, and 79 percent were willing to pay extra for that choice.

Rep. Phil Roe, the ranking Republican on the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, told Fox News last week that Ocasio-Cortez’s views on the VA are ignorant.

“Apparently ignorance is bliss when it comes to Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and her views of VA,” he said. “It is evident that she paid little attention to the scandalous treatment of veterans that occurred several years ago by some in the very agency created to serve them.”