WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) secured a commitment from President Trump’s nominee to serve as Secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Robert Wilkie, that Wilke would oppose efforts to privatize VA. Brown secured the commitment during a hearing before the Veterans Affairs Committee Wednesday.
“I have grave concerns regarding the position of the administration about privatizing veteran’s healthcare. At times, community care is necessary, which is why we passed the VA Mission Act. However, VA should not syphon funding off from VHA to expand community care. Will you commit to fully fund VHA and stop efforts to privatize the VA?” Brown asked.
“I am opposed to the privatization of the Veteran’s Affairs Department, and will continue to make sure that VHA is fully funded,” Wilke committed.
Download production quality video of Senator Brown’s question during the hearing on VA privatization HERE.
At the hearing, Wilke also committed to Brown that he would work with him to move forward with plans to house the National Veterans Affairs History Center at the Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC). Brown fought for years to bring the history center to Dayton (learn more).
“I’ve worked with two previous secretaries to establish a History Research National Heritage Center at the Dayton VAMC. Will you commit to implementing the existing MOA on this important project? Yes or no?” Brown asked.
“I do, and I look forward to going to Dayton. And as you and I said, this is my geek mode, I just finished reading a biography of one of Ohio’s great Presidents, and learned that Dayton has been the center for VA care for well over 140 years,” Wilke responded.
Download production quality video of Senator Brown’s question during the hearing on Dayton HERE.
At a meeting in Brown’s office last week, the Senator pressed Wilke on greater transparency and solutions to improve care at VA nursing homes. After USA Today reported that VA nursing facilities in Ohio had only received one- and two- star ratings on a scale of 5, Brown called these secret ratings troubling and introduced an amendment as a part of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act to require VA to submit an annual report to Congress on the ratings given to VA-run nursing homes.
During yesterday’s hearing, Brown also secured commitments from Wilke to protect whistleblowers and to acknowledge VA’s obligation to provide medical care and disability compensation for veterans who have been exposed to toxic chemicals. Specifically, Wilke promised to work with Brown regarding Agent Orange presumptive conditions, Blue Water Navy veterans eligibility for benefits, and establishing a process to diagnose constrictive bronchiolitis, a condition cause by burn pit exposure at VA.
Brown is the longest-serving U.S. Senator from Ohio on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.