March 20-21, 2018 -- Trump VA Hotline as phony as Trump University

publication date: Mar 20, 2018
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March 20-21, 2018 -- Trump VA Hotline as phony as Trump University

onald Trump's campaign rhetoric highlighted his commitment to improving veterans' medical care, especially after horror stories emerged about veterans being placed on long prioritization lists and even dying while awaiting surgery and other treatment. Trump, who has tried to reverse almost every action undertaken by the Obama administration, curiously kept within his cabinet Obama's Veterans Affairs Secretary, David Shulkin.

Based on Shulkin's actions while serving Trump -- something that has made the VA Secretary indistinguishable from other grifting Trump appointees at Housing and Urban Development, Education, Health and Human Services, Treasury, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Interior -- it is clear that Trump retained Shulkin because what Trump values most in his cabinet members is a commitment to corruption and misuse of official positions.

A scathing report by the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General concluded that Shulkin bilked the taxpayers for
$4,132 in airfare for his wife to accompany him on a trip to Copenhagen and London in July 2017. A department employee was misused by Shulkin on his trip as a "personal concierge." Shulkin and his wife also attended the Wimbledon tennis tournament courtesy of free tickets provided by Victoria Gosling, the former CEO of the 2016 Invictus Games.  The total cost to the taxpayers of the Shulkins' European vacation was $122,334. More recently, Shulkin ordered his VA security detail to carry into his home furniture purchased at Home Depot.

According to WMR's sources who rely on the VA for medical treatment, including those who are injured combat veterans, the VA's services have been severely degraded under Trump. After Trump took office, a number of veterans began receiving in the mail "Veterans Choice Temporary Program" paper identification cards. It turns out these cards are as worthless as diplomas from the defunct Trump University.

Trump has championed the
Veterans Choice Program, a pilot system established by the GOP-led Congress in 2014. It provides veterans with vouchers that can be used for treatment by private doctors. The system was designed to bypass any waiting lists within the VA medical system. However, Trump is clearly trying to use the Veterans Choice Program to totally privatize the VA medical system. Such a system would ensure lower-quality treatment, exorbitant co-pay expenses, long wait times, and medical personnel unfamiliar with specific military service-related injuries and conditions.

Trump initiated another veterans scam operation last year. In August 2017, Trump established the
White House VA Veterans Complaint Hotline. Intended to field complaints from veterans receiving inadequate services from the VA for medical or other care, the hotline can be placed in the same category as other Trump scams, including Trump Steaks, Trump Vodka, Trump Ice (spring water), Trump Mortgages, and Trump Wine.

Here is what recently happened when one veteran called the White House hotline with a serious complaint about the VA's prescription medication service. After calling the number, the veteran receives the following message, "
Thank you for calling the White House VA Hotline. Please wait on the line and your call will be answered in the order it was received." The veteran is then treated to a repetitive musical interlude that sounds like a soundtrack from one of Stormy Daniels's porn movies. After about 15 minutes, someone who could be an airline or rental car reservation operator answers. The hotline person asked for the name of the veteran and the VA medical center involved with the complaint. So far, so good. After the initial information was provided, the White House hotline person said, "I'll put you on hold while I contact that hospital." Fair enough. The hotline person then came back on the line and said, "No one answered the phone there . . . I have to put you back on hold while I try another number there." Not so good. And, after a few minutes, a disconnect followed by a dial tone.

The veteran's prescription refill for the critical diabetes medication Metformin was being inordinately delayed by the VA prescription ordering system. Such prescription delays never occurred under previous administrations. Even though the Metformin refill was requested some time back, the VA continued to report from their automated phone refill system that the re-ordering process was underway and that the medication would be mailed after ten days, with a further five to six days of mailing time. With no more medication at hand, the veteran's blood glucose levels and other vital signs are heading into danger territory.

In 2017, Trump told the convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars that instead of tweeting at night, he might stay up and answer some of the veterans calls received by his 24-hour White House Veterans Complaint Hotline. Had he received my call yesterday, Trump would have been schooled in some salty Navy language, most of which he would have never before heard and would not soon forget.

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