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Kelli Ward V.A. Plan: Let Veterans Control Their Health Care, ‘Not Some Bureaucrat’

On Thursday Dr. Kelli Ward, the U.S. Senate candidate challenging Sen. John McCain, addressed a room full of veterans to lay out her vision for a better health care plan for military veterans that is driven by the needs of those service members and for a better Veterans Administration.

Ward discussed her experience as a military wife and physician:

…my husband Mike has served honorably for the last 32 years. He knows what it’s like to be rocketed in Iraq. He knows. He knows what it’s like to care for our veterans and the others affected by those attacks that are happening in the Middle East. And our family, my kids and I, know what it’s like to worry and pray countlessly while he’s there, wondering if he’s going to come back the same person, if he’s going to come back at all.

As a military wife and as a family physician, I have the real life experience that we need in Washington, D.C. It’s outside politics and I think that it’s what we need to rebuild our military and to heal our V.A. system. Because John McCain’s Washington D.C., sadly, has abandoned our Veterans Administration.

Ward also said, “Anytime Congress passes a law it needs to apply to Congress as well,” said Ward saying there shouldn’t be exemptions for members of Congress.

The former Arizona state senator told the crowd that despite several attempts to get Sen. McCain to agree to a debate there has been no response from his campaign.

She clarified that her positions have been misrepresented in attack ads from the McCain campaign.

I believe that the NDAA needs to be a clean, stand alone bill. It should not need to be a bill where John McCain and other powerful senators place things into legislation that are poison pills to we Americans. And a 1700+ page bill does a lot more than fund our troops; there’s a lot of room to hide things. Hide things like drafting our daughters, slush funds that can be used to fund abortion abroad on our military bases and indefinite detention of American citizens without due process rights.

Ward vowed, “I will not vote on any bill that attempts to hide so much from American people, from our American citizens and our American voters. I simply won’t.”

She continued, “Constitutional isn’t optional, it simply isn’t. I will always fight for our Constitution and our Bill of Rights.”

“I do think that John McCain’s failed, he’s failed the V.A.,” said Ward. “What has happened here in Phoenix and across this great country has happened on the watch of the most well known, supposedly the most powerful veteran in our country. 34 years in Washington is long enough. It’s time, it’s time to honor Senator McCain with retirement.”

Ward went on to describe her plan to “heal” the Veteran’s Administration. She spoke of an adult lifetime of experience in healthcare, problem solving life-threatening issues.

Ward spoke of military veterans who have battled and put their lives on the line for their country, then asked, “but can they survive the bureaucracy of the Veteran’s Administration?”

We are supposed to be providing health care for wounded warriors and pensions for those disabled because of battlefield injuries. And the V.A. ironically is America’s only actual example of a single-payer health care system that some people in Washington, D.C. seem to worship. A sort of hallowed health care ideal. I say single payer has failed. We see it failing every single day in our V.A. system. It directly employs hundreds of thousands of people in government-owned and government-run facilities across the United States and around the world and it is our example of socialized medicine. Now I will tell you that I think in reality, and I want to get this right: government monopoly bureaucracy. Are those the three worst words in the english language?

It is failing. It is imposing suffering on the people it’s supposed to serve.

The only way we’re going to fix this is to create a system of choice and market competition. You all deserve to have choice. Our government should not be dumping amazing patients like you into a socialized system and telling you, you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.

This V.A. monopoly, this medicine that they’re providing has metastasized to a point where it is literally killing people every day.

She spoke of Congress receiving complaints and the response they portrayed as an attempt to help by tightening up response time from the V.A. to requests for essential services. “Instead of those requirements making care better, the V.A. bureaucracy actually figured out ways to evade what they needed to do. Rather than stepping up and doing the job, they found evasion strategies, they falsified paperwork, they had secret waiting lists to cover up the continued delays and consequently the V.A. Inspector General documented that as many as 40 veterans died while waiting for care right here in Phoenix.”

This “structural problem” extends and plagues veterans across the country, she communicated.

This government monopoly bureaucracy has no incentive to move mountains to provide essential services in a timely manner.

“We need structural reforms. They have to be based on choice and competition and so we have to empower veterans with the choice to seek timely health care from the vast private sector health care in America where you can determine, you, not a bureaucrat within the V.A. that it’s taking too long to get the care that you want and the care that you need and the care that you deserve,” said Ward.

“So that problem can be solved very simply,” said the former state legislator.

Any veteran who feels that the V.A. is making him or her wait too long will be empowered to take their veterans I.D. card to a private entity or a facility and get them the good care and the V.A. will foot the bill. Simple.

This plan is similar to the V.A. plan that’s proposed by Donald Trump and I look forward to working with him to make sure that we implement it.

“The veterans freedom of choice would immediately create competition for the V.A. in providing the requested health care services to eligible veterans,” said Ward.

“I’m ready to put America first, I’m ready to put veterans first so I look forward to serving you, I look forward to retiring McCain and I hope you will hire Ward so that we can heal the V.A.,” she concluded to raucous applause.

Ward’s husband Col. Mike Ward rose the podium as he spoke of political attacks on the Ward family as well as his time serving his fellow American soldiers.

Col. Gary Brewer, USAF (ret.) was introduced by Col. Ward as a 1989 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy who served for over 26 years, logged over 5,000 hours of flight time and had been deployed around the world to fight the “global war on terror.” Brewer retired earlier this year.

Brewer thanked all of the veterans and their families before saying of Ward, “I’ve never publicly supported anyone running for office before.” He informed the audience that he has known Kelli and the Ward family for over 16 years. He spoke of how she has used her medical expertise to offer free health care advice to troops. He spoke of other politicians that seize photos ops then disappear along with those cameras, but that Kelli Ward stayed around when there were no cameras.

“Servant leader,” intelligent, innovative, full of integrity and “in it to help other people” were words Brewer used to described the former state senator. He assured the audience that Ward is committed to fighting terrorism and of her history of participating in military functions that Brewer was a part of. “She will be 100 percent behind all of those men and women in uniform,” Brewer said of Ward.

“18 years in the Arizona National Guard, in various leadership functions, I didn’t see John McCain at a single one of our functions,” said Brewer. He said the only time he has gotten to meet McCain in person was in Las Vegas, Nevada.

He expressed appreciation for McCain’s military service, but disappointment over what he described as an apparent decline in his will to fight for the people of Arizona.

Col. Lee Cornelison (ret.) spoke next of the vicious political attack ads against Ward paid for by the Arizona Grassroots Action PAC. He handed out a list of donors to that PAC saying that the main contributor was a man named Ronald Perelman.

Perelman’s contribution to the PAC includes $100,000 in October 2015 as recorded in Federal Election Commission documents.

Cornelison spoke of McCain’s chairmanship on the Senate Armed Services Committee and Perelman’s control of Humvee producer AM General. He said that the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle holds up against IEDs better than a Humvee and that Oshkosh produces the heftier vehicle. He went on to speak of “soft money” and the McCain-Feingold Act and suggested that McCain retire.

Army Specialist Brad Suden addressed the group next saying, “Before the V.A. scandal broke, I was in Mr. McCain’s office on multiple occasions asking for help on a resolution that, that [former state] senator Ward helped pass, but McCain, nothin.”

I was one of those complaints that just got ignored and it’s ironic and a, sad, after the V.A. scandal broke and there was a television camera down there in front of the V.A., that’s where I found my senators, in front of that saying, ugh, we need to change this, something needs to be done, if only people had known. So there it is, it’s all about accountability.

Suden referenced the military chain of command and that there are consequences for mistakes. Based on his attempts to get help from McCain’s office, he said that “McCain had all the information, it just wasn’t important enough to him. So it’s time to relieve him of duty.”

After the scheduled program, Ward took questions from the audience. At one point she said, “we have to disempower the bureaucracy and we have to empower our veterans.”

One man stood up to give testimony to having sent a letter to McCain’s office warning of the problems in the V.A. and that he and other veterans were not getting the care that they needed. The man then stated that he received a letter back that said everything was fine.

Ward responded when questioned how her plan for the V.A. differs from what has already been prosed, “The most important part of the change is that the veteran determines if they have had to wait too long, rather than a bureaucrat within the V.A. system. You all should not have to wait for them to actually answer the phone. No matter where I’ve been from Yuma to Havasu to Page to St. Johns to Winslow, the complaint that I hear from veterans is that when the phone rings no one answers on the other end because they know if they answer, they’ve got 30 days. That’s gonna end with my plan.”

“Whenever you are not getting the care that you want and you need, you go to whatever entity you see fit and the V.A. pays the bill. That is their incentive to get better as a V.A. and your incentive to get the care that you need.”

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana 

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