Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie criticized socialism during a recent appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), warning attendees that the VA’s core mission “would be gone” under a socialist administration.
Wilkie was asked to make the case against socialism while sitting down for exclusive interview with Breitbart while attending CPAC on Saturday. Watch the video below:
“If America were suddenly to descend into a socialists State, that promise [to take care of our veterans’ that [Abraham] Lincoln made [when he created the department] 150 years ago is wiped out,” Wilkie told the conservative news outlet. “There’s no longer any care for veterans. … An incredibly high percentage of our warriors are with missing limbs.”
Wilkie went on to suggest that socialist policies, aimed at extending medical care and welfare programs to all Americans, would take the emphasis away from the specialized care intended for veterans.
“If socialism became the coin of the realm, that would be gone,” he said. “That would be gone, and that place that was promised for warriors would disappear.”
Wilkie went on to say President Donald Trump’s administration has taken a more “free market” approach to veterans care and “expand the market for veterans.”
“We are integrating VA into the greater American healthcare network and we’re saying to veterans, if you live a certain distance from a VA facility, if we don’t have what you need, then you have the power to go into the private sector and get what you need in a timely manner,” Wilkie said.
He said that since implementing VA Mission Act in June 2019, more than 3 million veterans have been able to handle their healthcare needs in the private sector, rather than trying to get help from VA facilities that are too far away or otherwise unable to accommodate them.
“That is a massive massive reform,” Wilkie said. “[Trump] has taken choice and given it new meaning to our veterans.”
Wilkie’s remarks come as Sanders still holds a lead among the prospective Democratic candidates for president in 2020. While Wilkie did not mention Sanders by name, his remarks appeared to criticize ideas specifically proposed by the independent Vermont senator. As a self-described “democratic socialist,” Sanders has proposed a “Medicare for All” plan that would expand the government program to handle healthcare for all Americans.
Sanders, who sits on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and has served as the committee’s chairman, has accused the Trump administration of privatizing parts of the VA’s mission, according to Military Times. Sanders has suggested Trump’s efforts have weakened federal services and in turn, boosted private companies.
Wilkie has rejected Sanders’ recent claims and said the VA’s budget has actually continued to increase under Trump’s leadership, while veterans may be better served by having access to outside medical care options.