The Veterans Affairs (VA) Department has about a year left to get its new, faster appeals process off the ground and ready for prime time.
Since Congress passed and the President signed the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act into law in the summer of 2017, VA has piloted and seen some success with the Rapid Appeals Modernization Plan (RAMP).
But when it comes to the overall future direction of the VA, all may not be well thanks to infighting between advocates for privatization in the Trump administration and veterans groups who oppose that step.
According to sources, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly intends to meet with the nation’s leading veterans advocates next week amid ongoing anxiety that there is a desire by some of President Trump’s political appointees to oust Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin.
Kelly’s offer to host a meeting comes after several weeks of negative press for the VA–primarily surrounding IG findings that Shulkin mislead the VA’s ethics office about a taxpayer-funded trip to Europe last year with his wife. Internal opponents of Shulkin have called for him to resign.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to dispel speculation Tuesday that Shulkin — often complimented by President Donald Trump over the past year — is no longer in Trump’s good graces.
Veterans groups that advise the VA and lawmakers have been waiting the last several days to learn whether Shulkin would be replaced. After the infighting was revealed last week, several veterans organizations urged the President to support Shulkin and remove those in the VA who may be trying to undermine him.
AMVETS, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Vietnam Veterans of America and Disabled American Veterans all publicly expressed letdown in the ethics violations found by the IG — but they still see Shulkin as the remaining bulwark against privatization of the VA and are concerned any replacement could expedite an aggressive expansion of veterans’ medical care into the private sector.