Health

Some GOPers Hesitant To Say VA Should Hire More Vets

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Conservative members of Congress cautiously declined Wednesday to criticize Department of Veterans Affairs officials for employing so few veterans in top positions at medical facilities.

The Daily Caller News Foundation exclusively reported that only 13 percent of the top 300 executives at VA medical facilities are veterans, something a non-veteran VA spokeswoman said is sometimes because many veterans are unqualified.

Several of the conservative Republicans participating in a Wednesday “Conversations with Conservatives” forum with reporters on Capitol Hill said being a veteran doesn’t necessarily qualify a person to run or help run a VA medical facility.

“This may be a case of a story in search of a problem,” said Rep. Mark Sanford, a South Carolina Republican who served in the Air Force Reserve. “You wouldn’t necessarily want to have a lot of infantrymen running the veterans system,” adding that the VA should consider veterans’ input, but shouldn’t prioritize hiring vets for VA facility leadership roles.

Rep. Andy Harris, a former medical officer in the Navy Reserve who worked in VA hospitals, said veterans aren’t specifically qualified to run the VA and there shouldn’t be a quota for hiring them. But, he he said the VA needs to fire people who fail to perform.

“I knew plenty of people at the VA who were not veterans whose missions were to serve veterans, and that was their public service,” the Maryland Republican said. “And I look at them the way I do my fellow officers in the military. They were serving veterans in that case, not active duty personnel, but that was their measure of public service.

“So I would not use that as the yardstick, whether or not they were a veteran. Being a veteran doesn’t qualify you in any special way to take care of veterans above and beyond those dedicated individuals, many of whom were in the VA, but clearly not all the people in the VA whose main interest is taking care of veterans.”

VA spokeswoman Walinda West told TheDCNF the VA has been “trying to move heaven and earth” since December to find out what caliber of jobs most vets are hired by the department. But they still don’t have data.

Other Republicans weren’t satisfied with the status quo hiring practices at the VA.

“We are encouraging for other companies to hire veterans, absolutely the VA should get encouragement to do the same thing,” Rep. Steve Pearce, a Republican and former Air Force combat pilot from New Mexico, told TheDCNF.

“I would agree with Dr. Harris that just being a veteran does not qualify you, but if you’ve got two equally qualified candidates, I absolutely believe the veteran should get some nod there,” Pearce said.

The Democratic ranking members on the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees, Rep. Corrinne Brown of Florida and Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, did not respond to requests for comment from TheDCNF.

Rep. Tom MacArthur, a Republican from New Jersey and House Armed Services Committee member, had the strongest words for the VA.

“The leadership skills our veterans have acquired, along with their unique experience, make them the best possible fit for positions within the VA,” MacArthur told TheDCNF separately. “Who knows more about what our veterans face than those who have served? Our nation’s veterans should have a hand in shaping the policies that directly affect the quality of care our veterans receive.

“Our servicemen and women have better insight, context and exposure to the challenges facing veterans, and I believe they have the ability to serve our nation’s goal of providing improved care. Those who have served in the military are also uniquely equipped to identify and directly confront systemic failures within the VA — far more than career bureaucrats.”

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Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.