(CNSNews.com) – Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton promised Thursday that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will never be privatized in an attempt to address thousands of backlogged claims and long waiting periods for veterans to receive medical care.
“Yes, let’s fix the VA, but we will never let it be privatized, and that is a promise,” Clinton said during MSNBC’s Democratic presidential debate at the University of New Hampshire.
“Secretary Clinton, I want to ask you about a national security issue that is closer to home. There are thousands of veterans, over 100,000 veterans living in the state of New Hampshire. If either one of you is nominated as the Democratic Party’s nominee, you will likely face a Republican opponent in the general election who wants to privatize or even abolish big parts of the VA. It’s a newly popular idea in conservative politics,” MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow said.
“How will you win the argument on that issue given the problems that have been exposed at the VA in the last few years? What’s your argument that the VA should still exist and should not be privatized?” Maddow asked.
“Well, first of all, I’m absolutely against privatizing the VA, and I am going to do everything I can to build on the reforms that Senator Sanders and others in Congress have passed to try to fix what’s wrong with the VA. There are a lot of issues about wait times and services that have to be fixed, because our veterans deserve nothing but the best,” said Clinton.
“Yes, let’s fix the VA, but we will never let it be privatized, and that is a promise,” she said.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) agreed with Clinton, saying, “We’ve got to strengthen the VA. We do not privatize the VA.”
Sanders cited his work on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Committee and his collaboration with the American Legion, the VFW, the DAV, the Vietnam Vets, and other veterans’ organizations “to put together the most comprehensive piece of the veterans’ legislation in the modern history of America.” However, he couldn’t get the 60 votes needed to pass it.
Sanders said he asked veterans groups what the quality of care was once veterans were in the VA system.
“The last point that I’d make. I had a hearing. I had all of the veterans groups in front of me, and I said to them, tell me when a veteran gets in to the VA, understanding there are waiting lines and real problems, when a veteran gets into the system, is the quality of care good? Without exception, what they said, good, excellent, very good,” Sanders added.