Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton is taking fire from veterans groups over comments she made in an interview Friday saying the scandals at the Department of Veterans Affairs were “not as widespread” as Republicans have made them out to be.
Speaking on MSNCB’s “Rachel Maddow Show,” the former Secretary of State said the problems at the VA are real, but added that they are “not as widespread as it has been made out to be.”
Mrs. Clinton blamed Republicans for using the issue as part of an “ideological agenda” and said the GOP wants the VA to fail so veterans’ healthcare can become privatized.
“Now nobody would believe that from the coverage you see, and the constant berating of the VA that comes from the Republicans, in part in pursuit of this ideological agenda that they have,” Mrs. Clinton said.
“They try to create a downward spiral, don’t fund it to the extent that is needs to be funded, because they want it to fail, so then we can argue for privatization,” she added.
Earlier this month, Senate Democrats blocked a bill to fund the VA in order to push Republicans to negotiate a larger overall budget deal.
She argued that many surveys indicate that most veterans are happy with the health care they’ve received at the VA.
“I don’t understand why we have such a problem, because there have been a number of surveys of veterans, and, overall, veterans who do get treated are satisfied with their treatment,” she said.
In a statement on Saturday, Pete Hegseth, CEO of Concerned Veterans for America condemned Mrs. Clinton’s comments, saying her remarks minimized the problems plaguing the VA.
“Mrs. Clinton is clearly out of touch with reality when it comes to veterans’ needs, and despite her self-professed lack of understanding of VA issues, is more interested in defending the status quo and entrenched special interests than in actually advocating for the reforms veterans want,” Mr. Hegseth said.
“Veteran-centered reform will only happen when politicians acknowledge the widespread institutional rot at the VA. With her commentsFriday, Mrs. Clinton has shown that she is part of the problem, not the solution.”
A VA inspector general’s report last year revealed veterans at a Phoenix, Ariz VA hospital waited 115 days on average for an initial doctors appointment, while official data claimed that the average wait was only 24 days.
The report also found that 1,700 veterans were intentionally kept off patient rolls and at least 40 veterans died waiting for treatment at the Phoenix hospital.