New GOP finance chair Pete Hegseth comes out swinging on VA management

MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday
For the Republican Seniors of Minnesota, Hegseth, a U.S. Senate candidate in 2010, put a partisan spin on the VA problems.

Pete Hegseth, new finance chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota, explained to a Republican seniors group Tuesday in Bloomington that he wears three hats: chief fund-raiser for the GOP, contributor to Fox News, and CEO of Concerned Veterans for America.

Hegseth, 33, an Iraq War veteran and Bronze Star medalist, will wear the third hat Thursday when he testifies before the U.S. Senate Veteran Affairs committee on the VA Management Accountability Act, a bill that passed the House overwhelmingly with bipartisan support.

“It’s long overdue that there be some real accountability in the Department of Veterans Affairs, meaning that not a single senior executive has been fired even since the Phoenix VA scandal because it nearly impossible to fire a top-level government employee,” Hegseth said in an interview.

The reform legislation, H.R. 4031, was prompted by an Inspector General’s report that a VA facility in Phoenix had manipulated records on waiting times for medical care, an investigation that has expanded to other facilities nationwide.

HR 4031 is a three-page bill that gives the Secretary of Veterans Affairs the authority to remove managers who are failing in their duties.  “It is not a partisan issue, it is about — do you defend the status quo or are you going to be for reform in a department that badly needs it,” Hegseth said.  

But for the Republican Seniors of Minnesota, Hegseth, a U.S. Senate candidate in 2010, put a partisan spin on the VA problems.  “The Department of Veterans Affairs is probably the best preview anywhere of what government-run, top-down, single-payer health care looks like,” he told the group.  “No choice, no transparency of cost, lots of bureaucracy.”   

Concerned Veterans for America is part of a network of conservative advocacy groups backed by Charles and David Koch.  The group has launched a campaign of letters, phone calls and advertising aimed at five Democratic senators, urging them to support the reform legislation.  The ad campaign also praises Democrats who voted for the bill in the House.

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Comments (14)

  1. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/04/2014 - 10:24 am.

    The Republican mind

    A curious thing is the way the Republican mind equates firing people with accountability. Whatever the merits of the action, once you fire someone, he or she is no longer accountable. From what I gather, part of the problem with the VA is the failing of existing accountability procedures, not that they weren’t there.

  2. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/04/2014 - 11:55 am.

    Incredible!

    A Fox News contributor who is the Republican finance chair and also titular head of a Koch brothers puppet group is criticizing the President? Who would have thought such a thing!

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/04/2014 - 12:11 pm.

      And a veteran as well!

      Talk about your conservative stereotype!

      • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 06/04/2014 - 02:58 pm.

        The VA was making progress until the onset of the frivolous Iraq

        War and then the Afghanistan war resulting in horrendous severe injuries and psychological problems. At no time to my knowledge did the GOP legislators suggest increased funding for the VA. I’m sure hegseth has an answer for that straight out of the mouths of the Kochs.

  3. Submitted by Theo Kozel on 06/04/2014 - 01:06 pm.

    Let’s review our recent history

    If the VA had been run the way the Minnesota GOP has run its finances over the past decade things would be much, much better. Please don’t check up on that history- it would make Pete and I look so very foolish.

  4. Submitted by David Frenkel on 06/04/2014 - 01:27 pm.

    DOD healthcare

    The DOD healthcare system is also a single payer system but I haven’t heard the GOP complain about it. The mental health system at the DOD has been under funded but again the GOP have been holding back funding to expand mental healthcare for the DOD.
    The problems at the VA have been around for some time through every political administration. The current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have only backlogged the VA and made the problems worst and have made it to the front page. Until recently Congress was full of veterans who probably never used the VA and nothing was changed.

  5. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/04/2014 - 01:42 pm.

    So how does firing a couple of top administrators increase the capacity of the systems in the sunbelt where a lot of veterans now reside?

    Sure, fire the perpetrators of the sham, but increasing the capacity of the system in some locations is the real issue.

    Let’s hear the free-market solutions for the real problem.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/04/2014 - 04:13 pm.

      Firing the incompetents

      doesn’t solve anything but it punishes poor performance. People in government accept poor performance as a fact of life and so are confused as to why anyone should be fired.

      The free-market solution is to remove the requirement that veterans only go the VA health care facilities. Give them medical ID cards that can be shown at any and all medical facilities, including civilian doctors and hospitals, billable to the DOD.

      That’s called consumer choice which is the basis of the free market.

      • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/04/2014 - 07:30 pm.

        No cost implications to that, of course….

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/05/2014 - 06:27 am.

        Brevity

        doesn’t solve anything but it punishes poor performance.

        And that’s the problem. Republicans aren’t really, when you get down to it, interested in solving anything. Indeed, they are ideologically committed to the idea that government always performs poorly, so they have a conflict with any measure that would tend to make government perform better.

        Mr. Hegseth has a three page solution to the problems of caring for our veterans. Many of the rest of us feel the problem is a bit more complicated than that.

        • Submitted by jason myron on 06/05/2014 - 08:35 am.

          To the GOP

          three pages is the Magna Carta. Usually, their entire ideological tenet needs to be condensed to fit on a bumper sticker.

        • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/05/2014 - 08:45 am.

          It’s not, really

          The problem is access to treatment due to incompetent bureaucrats who suffer no consequences for their actions. You know, a typical government operation.

          The solution is to allow veterans to avoid the VA bureaucracy altogether and go directly to the doctor or hospital of their choosing, billable to the DOD. That’s not complicated other than drafting a memo, moving some money around in DOD accounts, and distributing ID cards.

          The democrat solution is to enlarge the bureaucracy and to throw more money at it.

  6. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/04/2014 - 02:53 pm.

    Technical issues

    “The DOD healthcare system is also a single payer system but I haven’t heard the GOP complain about it.”

    This is a problem when your policy positions are dictated by partisanship rather than things like common sense. The GOP position which was largely adapted in Obamacare serves many different political, financial and economic interests. If we started fresh, no on would dream of creating the health care system today, which is the result of arcane economic and historical forces as opposed to any systematic planning. The Veterans administration, for various reasons, was immune from the forces, and quite logically developed into a single payer system. Since we don’t tend to view Veterans issue from a partisan perspective, those policies dictated by partisanship are irrelevant to the point of not even being thought of. I have heard conservative commentators talk about a system which would give veterans a card that could be used at any hospital to receive care. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But that’s the purest form of single payer, one so radical that not even Democrats propose it outside the arbitrary boundary of veterans’ care.

  7. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/05/2014 - 07:57 am.

    Policy goals

    Mr. Hegseth’s goal is to provide fodder for Bill O’Reilly’s feigned outrage in a talking points memo, along with a couple of zillion bytes of red faced Congresspeople shrieking questions at ordinary people which they are not allowed to answer. Three page bills are ideal tools for that. I have no doubt that Mr. Hegseth, particularly as a veteran himself, but also just as a human being, cares deeply that our veterans receive the health care they deserve, which is also the health care we promised them. He is not an un good guy. The problem is that the portion of Mr. Hegseth’s brain that is genuinely concerned with these issues, and which by the way, is very bright, is totally and rather oddly disconnected from the public Mr. Hegseth which appears to see these issues in only purely partisan terms. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if somehow he could see the connection, that the partisanship and competitveness of Mr. Hegseth could be channeled into finding ways that would actually improve the health care veterans receive?

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