Donald Trump still hasn’t appointed a secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Rep. Seth Moulton is not happy about it.
In a strongly worded statement Tuesday, the Salem Democrat and Iraq War veteran blasted Trump for the delay. Citing the president-elect’s five Vietnam War draft deferments, Moulton said it was “no surprise from a draft dodger.”
“Despite his promise that he would make veterans issues one of his top priorities, our President-Elect has failed to nominate an individual to lead the VA. This failure is yet another example of Trump’s complete lack of respect for our service, but should come as no surprise from a draft dodger who had five deferments during the Vietnam War. Donald Trump has shown time and time again that he does not respect veterans, from denying that Senator McCain is a war hero to saying veterans with Post Traumatic Stress are weak. It’s clear that we are not one of his priorities.
The VA is our nation’s second-largest federal department and the nation’s largest health care system, and both President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush named their VA appointments in December leading up to their respective inaugurations. It seems that Trump is more concerned about tweeting his support for Putin and his disdain for Meryl Streep than ensuring our veterans receive the care and respect they have earned.”
Of the 21 cabinet-level appointments Trump has to make, the VA post is one of just three still currently lacking a nominee, along with agriculture secretary and chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors.
Moulton likely isn’t the only Bay State politician unhappy about Trump’s feet-dragging. Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown met with Trump after the election about being VA secretary and said he’s “the best person” for the job. Most recently, Brown told the Boston Herald that he was still waiting to hear back, but “very much in the mix.”
While Brown’s been waiting, Trump has reportedly approached many other candidates about the job. But as the Washington Post reported, at least several have declined or pulled their names out of the running.
As the Post recently explained, even aside from the 2014 VA scandal, running the sprawling agency is one of the toughest jobs in government.
Its daily operations are tested by the burdens of 15 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan and increasing medical demands from older veterans who fought in Vietman, Korea and World War II.
Long waits persist for medical appointments in some parts of the system. VA runs the country’s largest health-care system at a time when government-run health care is under fire. Its massive benefits program runs huge backlogs. Its leader must answer to otherwise divided lawmakers who unite for veterans to demand accountability.
Unlike most other federal agencies, VA serves veterans directly. And when it fails, a well-organized constituency that has always been sacred to Americans and its politicians makes it known.
The top veterans groups, including the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, have urged Trump to keep the current VA secretary, Robert McDonald, unsatisfied with the potential picks floated so far.
“Who in their right mind wants to go in and take on what seems to be insurmountable problems?” Susan Lukas, a former VA official and veterans advocate, told the Post.
Apparently, not many.