Bernie Sanders: Trump’s Listening to the Koch Brothers on Privatizing the VA, It’s a ‘Very Bad Idea’
BRENNAN: We turn now to Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who sits on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. He joins us from Burlington in his home state this morning.
Senator, the VA is largest health care system in this country. Will you support Dr. Ronny Jackson as the nominee?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Well, we know nothing about what Dr. Jackson stands for, what his vision is for the VA.
But, Margaret, this is what I will tell you. What concerns me very much is that, right now in Washington, we have a family called the Koch brothers, third wealthiest family in America, family that is prepared, with a few of their other billionaire friends, to spend $400 million on the coming elections.
They are now the most powerful political force in America, stronger than the Democratic National Committee or the Republican National Committee. Their view has been we have got to privatize, privatize, and privatize.
And what Dr. Shulkin, who Trump just fired this week, has told us is that the reason for his firing is that he resisted privatization of the Veterans Administration.
Now, I work very closely with the major veterans organizations, the American Legion, VFW, DAV, Vietnam Vets, all of the veterans organizations. And what they say is they want to strengthen the VA, not dismember it, not privatize it.
So, we will see what Dr. Jackson has to say.
BRENNAN: Well, the White House says, at this time, they have no intent to privatize the VA.
Do you know what the Trump administration policy is?
SANDERS: Yes, of course I do. They have been putting more and more money into the private sector with VA money. I do not believe them on that issue.
I think they are listening to the Koch brothers. And I think that that is a very, very bad idea. If you listen to veterans all across this country, as I do, they will tell you, sure, there are problems with the VA.
But, by and large, once they get into the system, they are proud of the quality that the VA — quality care that the VA provides. In fact, the American Legion has just come out with a publication which vigorously opposes privatization.
So, I do believe that the Trump administration, no matter what they are now saying, I think they are working on behalf of the Koch brothers. Look, these are the guys, Koch brothers, who want to privatize everything.
You have a Trump administration that, in their budget, the Trump budget, proposed $500 billion cuts in Medicare, trillion-dollar cuts in Medicaid. You have a secretary of education who doesn’t believe in public education, a head of the EPA...
BRENNAN: Well, sir, on the issue of the VA, you did last year vote for a bill that allowed at least more leeway for veterans...
BRENNAN: ... and their doctors to decide whether they wanted to opt in for private care.
So, it sounds like you are open to some private sector option here.
SANDERS: Well, there has always been private sector option.
If you live in a rural community, you don’t want 75-, 80-year-old veterans to travel two hours to get a physical examination. If there is a VA facility in the country that is not treating veterans in a timely manner, of course you want to allow veterans to go to the private sector. That is the case now. That has always been the case.
But what the Koch brothers want and what I fear the Trump administration wants is to rip that wide open and to take many — we got a $200 billion veterans budget.