Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, with a post on her public Facebook account, appeared Wednesday to confirm a report that she’s under consideration by President-elect Donald Trump to become secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The post included a highly stylized video produced by SarahPAC, her political action committee, about the former Republican vice presidential candidate’s ideas on how to fix the troubled agency, and a link to the ABC News report that first broke the news of her vetting by the Trump transition team. ABC News said that both a Palin aide and the Trump transition team confirmed she’s under consideration to run the VA.
“We should be grateful we’ll soon have a commander-in-chief who will champion our vets and honor the promises our nation made; a pro-private sector individual who surely understands bigger government is NOT the answer; a President who promised to drain the swamp and clean up all government corruption . . . all things our vets and active duty troops deserve,” Palin wrote, followed by an American flag emoji.
Palin, who unsuccessfully ran on a ticket with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in 2008, would take the helm of an agency marked by scandal and crisis. The VA also stands at a policy crossroads, with many lawmakers in favor of allowing veterans to more widely use private doctors and hospitals, a plan vehemently opposed by many Democrats and some veterans groups. In 2014, lawmakers scrambled to expand access to VA health care when it was discovered that some veterans seeking care were waiting so long that they died before seeing a doctor.
Palin, who is known for her brash speaking style, if tapped and confirmed would also inherit a position in which current VA Secretary Robert McDonald received considerable blowback for a public statement made about wait times. McDonald was excoriated by lawmakers and advocacy groups for comparing VA wait times to lines at a Disney theme park.
Palin’s video lays out three major platforms for what she wants to see from federal veterans’ care: allow veterans to receive care in the private market through vouchers, allow veterans re-entering the civilian workforce to use military certifications in place of civilian ones for job skills, and maintain veterans’ retirement benefits.
Those changes won’t come without a price. For example, lawmakers are currently grappling with how to extend a $10 billion private care program that expires in August 2017 or whenever the money allocated to it runs out. Recently, CQ reported that the program, while designed to provide a new route of access for patients facing distance issues or long wait times, was mostly serving veterans who couldn’t get the care they wanted at a VA facility. That’s triggered questions about whether the program is being administered in the way it was intended.
There’s also a slew of concerns from House authorizers about the way the VA is spending money on a construction project in Denver and reports of lavish art purchases at medical facilities — issues which were the subject of a federal subpoena issued by House lawmakers in September.