Jeff Miller as Trump’s Next Pick:
How Miller’s 6 Years of Ground Work will Make
Trump’s 10 Point Plan for the VA Achievable
By Brittney, 1/6/2017
“Veterans should come first in the country they fought to protect,” President-Elect Donald J. Trump said in a July 11th speech on veteran affairs in Virginia Beach, a major naval base town in Virginia. “Under a Trump Administration they will -- America First, Veterans First.”
Trump in the same speech said that one of his top priorities would be to “Ensure our veterans get the care they need wherever and whenever they need it. No more long drives. No more waiting backlogs. No more excessive red tape. Just the care and support they earned with their service to our country.”
With Trump’s overwhelming win of the military vote the impending selection of the head of the Department of Veteran Affairs is widely being anticipated. House Committee on Veterans Affairs (HVAC) Chairman Jeff Miller has long been favored to head the VA. Miller has remained as an anticipated candidate throughout the selection process and recently received our endorsement for the position.
Miller distinctly mirrors Trump’s outspoken withdrawal from the fatally ineffective department that has afflicted our vets for almost a decade and he is confident in his ability to change the failed department when two others before him could not. In a December interview on the topic Miller told USA Today that a part of his anticipated success would be contributed to the Trump Leadership saying that “the difference between Shinseki and McDonald is the fact that they both work for President Barack Obama.” He added that “Trump will be able to take on many of the very people that want to keep the VA the same.”
Trump and Miller are not only aligned in their publically candid criticism of the department. In Miller’s six years as Chairman he has worked diligently on legislation chipping away at the bureaucratic rules that hold the VA stagnant in its failures. In fact, 12 of Miller’s 25 sponsored bills have been in support of Veterans or Service members and 30 bills cosponsored by Miller have been in support of veterans, service members or military families. Trump’s ten point plan to reform the VA may be achievable because of the groundwork already laid by Miller. This is why at the Center for American Homeless Veterans we consider Miller as the most capable appointment to finally lead the VA to welcomed change.
Here is a list of Trump’s 10 point plan to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs and what Miller has already done to align with each of Trump’s points:
1) Appoint a VA Secretary whose sole purpose will be to serve veterans. Under a Trump Administration, the needs of D.C. bureaucrats will no longer be placed above those of our veterans.
a) After 6 years being intimately involved with the VA Miller likely already has a full grasp of the immediate reform needed and individuals in need of removal.
b) In response to justifications made by the VA after news broke of Veteran deaths directly caused from a delay in care from VA medical centers, Miller pleaded with the department to refrain from empty apologies and defenses saying the following in an tense hearing on the matter:
What our Veterans have truly “earned and deserve” is not more platitudes and, yes, one adverse incident is indeed one too many. We all recognize that no medical system is infallible, no matter how high the quality standards might be. But I think we all also recognize that the VA health care system is unique because it has a special obligation not only to its patients – the men and women who honorably serve our nation in uniform – but also to its financers – the hard-working American taxpayers.
2) Use the powers of the presidency to remove and discipline the federal employees and managers who have violated the public's trust and failed to carry out the duties on behalf of our veterans.
a) In 2016 Miller sponsored the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016 (H.R. 5620) “which authorizes the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to remove or demote a VA employee based on performance or misconduct and provides that specified federal employee performance appraisal provisions shall not apply to such removals or demotions.” This bill is pending in the Senate (House Passed 9/14/2016).
3) Ask that Congress pass legislation that empowers the Secretary of the VA to discipline or terminate any employee who has jeopardized the health, safety or well-being of a veteran.
a) In 2014 Miller sponsored Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act of 2014 (H.R. 4031; 113th Congress) , a bill that “would give the Secretary of VA the authority to remove or demote any individual from the Senior Executive Service upon determining that such individual's performance warrants removal or demotion.”
b) Miller sponsored VA Accountability Act of 2015 (H.R. 1994), a bill that “amends title 38, United States Code, to provide for the removal or demotion of employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs based on performance or misconduct, and for other purposes.” This bill is pending in Senate. (House Passed 7/29/2015)
4) Create a commission to investigate all the fraud, cover-ups, and wrong-doing that has taken place in the VA, and present these findings to Congress to spur legislative reform.
a) Miller has supported the creation of the commission on care to “examine veterans’ access to Department of Veterans Affairs health care and to examine how best to organize the Veterans Health Administration, locate health resources, and deliver health care to veterans during the next 20 years.” In a statement in response to the first Commission report Miller noted that “the document makes it abundantly clear that the problems plaguing Department of Veterans Affairs medical care are severe. Fixing them will require dramatic changes in how VA does business, to include expanding partnerships with community providers in order to give veterans more health care choices”
5) Protect and promote honest employees at the VA who highlight wrongdoing, and guarantee their jobs will be protected.
a) Miller and Trump alignment is evidenced when Miller was asked by USA Today if VA workers were the problem with the VA. Miller responded by saying that “There are thousands of good employees who work at the VA every day. I don’t want to be remembered as the chairman who was only focused on the negative at the department. Unfortunately, there has been a considerable amount of negative that needed to be highlighted and we did our job.”
6) Create a private White House hotline, which will be active 24 hours a day answered by a real person. It will be devoted to answering veteran's complaints of wrongdoing at the VA and ensure no complaints fall through the cracks.
a) Awaiting comment from the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on stance of committee previously led by Miller.
7) Stop giving bonuses to any VA employees who are wasting money, and start rewarding employees who seek to improve the VA's service, cut waste, and save lives.
a) In 2015 Miller sponsored a bill to authorize the Secretary of Veteran Affairs to recoup bonuses and awards paid to employee of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (H.R. 280). This bill “authorizes the Secretary of the VA to issue an order directing a VA employee to repay the amount, or a portion of the amount, of an award or bonus paid to the employee if: (1) the Secretary determines that such repayment is appropriate, and (2) the employee is afforded notice and an opportunity for a hearing. Makes the Secretary's repayment decisions final and unreviewable by any other agency or any court. The bill is still pending in the Senate. (House Passed 3/2/2015)
8) Reform the visa system to ensure veterans are at the front of the line for health services, not the back.
a) While Miller has not publically made any statement on Trump’s indication to require businesses hiring foreign workers to first give favor to veterans, he has worked to understand the current accumulation of veterans waiting for much needed help .In 2013 Miller sponsored bill H.R. 2189 to establish a task forces to evaluate the backlog of disability claims of the department. It would also analyze potential solutions to the claims process issues and submit the solutions to the Secretary. This bill would then require the Secretary to implement the suggested solutions or submit justification to Congress regarding suggestions not implemented.
9) Increase the number of mental health care professionals, and allow veteran's to be able to seek mental health care outside of the VA.
a) In 2016 Miller sponsored bill H.R. 4590 which “directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to study and report on programs to assist veterans in their transition to civilian life. This bill is still pending in the Senate. (House Passed 6/21/2016)
10)Ensure every veteran has the choice to seek care at the VA or at a private service provider of their own choice. Under a Trump Administration, no veteran will die waiting for service.
a) In 2014 Miller sponsored Veteran Access to Care Act of 2014 (H.R. 4810, as amended), “a bill that would require VA to offer non-VA care at the department’s expense to any enrolled veteran who cannot get an appointment within VA wait time goals or who lives more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility.” This bill was signed into law as part of the The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014. (House Passed 6/10/2014)
b) In 2015 Miller sponsored the Long-Term Care Veterans Choice Act (H.R. 294), “authorizing the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA), during the three-year period beginning on October 1, 2015, to transfer a veteran for whom the Secretary is required to provide nursing home care to a medical foster home that meets VA standards pursuant to a contract or agreement with the VA, at such veteran's request. Requires such veteran to agree, as a transfer condition, to accept VA home health services.” This bill is still pending in Senate. (House Passed 3/2/2015)
Many of Miller’s attempts to reform VA with legislation have fallen flat in the Senate. A Trump-Miller team would need to move fast and aggressively to enact measureable change in the next four years. The VA is plagued with union like hiring structures and an inability for any parties to take accountability. An integrated Trump- Miller team combined with a unified House and Senate may be the only opportunity for VA reform that lasts.
Any other appointee will be faced with a huge learning curve and hit with the same bureaucratic road blocks Miller has been navigating for almost a decade. This will inevitably cause a delay in action. These are delays our Vets can’t afford, as proven by numerous reports of veteran’s deaths due to VA negligence. Their lives are literally on the line once more.
Take action today. Contact your local Congressional Representatives and ask them to make Veteran’s a top priority in the next four years.