Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) doubled down over the weekend on her previous defense of the Department of Veterans Affairs health-care system, arguing that its critics are out to destroy it and the veterans who depend on it.
“You might have heard Fox News talking about it,” Ocasio-Cortez said of her earlier remarks during a town hall in her home district over the weekend. “Because there is a myth that all VAs everywhere are broken. . . . If we can starve them of budgets and make sure they can’t do their job, then we can say the whole system should be thrown away. I’m not going to back down from protecting the VA.”
The freshman Democrat was responding to the torrent of online criticism she received from veterans’ activists last week after she dismissed the notion of reforming the VA health-care system as a plot designed to enrich special interests.
“When it comes to the VA all I can think of is that classic refrain that my parents always told me growing up is that ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ . . . that is the approach that we’ve seen when it comes to privatization, is the idea that this thing that isn’t broken, this thing that provides the highest quality care to our veterans, somehow needs to be fixed, optimized, tinkered with, until we don’t even recognize it anymore,” she said during a town hall in New York last week.
The VA has been plagued in recent years by reports of incompetent treatment and unreasonably long wait times that have resulted, in many cases, in the deaths of veterans who sought life-saving treatment. In response, both houses of Congress passed legislation last year that was intended to reform the system by giving veterans more options for treatment. Ocasio-Cortez has pledged to fight those efforts, which she believes constitute a nefarious scheme to enrich corporations.
“Here’s the thing: They are trying to fix it, but who are they trying to fix it for is the question we’ve got to ask,” she said during the town hall last week. “They’re trying to fix the VA for pharmaceutical companies, they’re trying to fix the VA for insurance corporations, and ultimately they’re trying to fix the VA for a for-profit health-care industry that does not put people or veterans first.”