Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) slammed Hillary Clinton for telling a crowd at a New Hampshire campaign event that Republicans are trying to "privatize" VA healthcare.
"For Secretary Clinton to play partisan politics with the VA crisis one day before Veterans Day is nothing short of shameful," McCain, himself a veteran, said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
Clinton on Tuesday rolled out her proposals to fix problems at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs nearly three weeks after she was criticized by McCain, other lawmakers, and veterans groups for suggesting that Republicans had made mismanagement, delays, and poor healthcare at the agency appear "more widespread" than they are in reality.
Clinton’s plan would involve having the VA contract with private healthcare providers for some services, but she insisted Tuesday that she would refuse to "privatize" the VA.
"As we work to improve the VA, I will fight as long and hard as it takes to prevent Republicans from privatizing it as part of a misguided, ideological crusade," Clinton said at the veterans’ roundtable event. "Privatization is a betrayal, plain and simple, and I’m not going to let it happen."
McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, labeled the Democratic presidential candidate’s comments "inaccurate and offensive."
"For her to accuse me and my Republican colleagues of wanting to ‘privatize’ the VA is, of course, inaccurate and offensive. We want to fix the VA for our nation’s veterans, and we are proud of the landmark Choice Card provisions included in last year’s VA reform bill, which passed with an overwhelming 93 votes in the U.S. Senate," McCain stated.
"Secretary Clinton should know that the overwhelming majority of veterans not only don’t consider the Choice Card ‘privatization,’ they want this reform and in fact consider it necessary to expand their healthcare choices. I am deeply disturbed that Secretary Clinton seems to side with the broken VA bureaucracy, which is responsible for this scandal, rather than the veterans who have suffered and died due to its mismanagement and neglect."
He further labeled Clinton’s logic on the VA "outdated."
Clinton promised to unveil policy proposals to fix the VA after she was criticized for downplaying issues at the agency during an Oct. 23 interview with MSNBC.
"There have been a number of surveys of veterans and, overall, veterans who do get treated are satisfied with their treatment," Clinton told Rachel Maddow then. "Nobody would believe that from the coverage that you see with the constant berating of the VA that comes from the Republicans in part in pursuit of this ideological agenda that they have."
McCain called on Clinton to apologize for her statements minimizing the VA failures and surmised that veterans will "question" her qualifications to become president because of the remarks. McCain also accused Clinton of politicizing the issue.
More than a year after the 2014 fake wait list scandal, an independent assessment commissioned by the VA concluded that the agency’s network of health systems needed a "system-wide reworking."