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GOP platform calls for new VA leadership structure, more care options

The Department of Veterans Affairs would see an overhaul in how medical care is delivered and how senior leaders are hired and fired under the the Republican Party platform adopted in Cleveland this week.

The document also charges that "the VA has failed those who have sacrificed the most for our freedom" and says private sector help is the only way to save the failing system.

"As shown by recent controversies at the department, senior leaders must be held accountable for ensuring that their subordinates are more responsive to veterans' needs," the platform states. "The VA must move from a sometimes adversarial stance to an advocacy relationship with vets."

The platform document, drafted over the last few months by conservative leaders, is not a blueprint for Republican nominee Donald Trump's VA reform efforts as president.

But the themes match with several parts of Trump's 10-point veterans plan released earlier this month, calling for more resources and assistance for veterans outside of government control and significant accountability changes in VA employment rules.  

Republican National Committee officials said the overall goal of their plan is to shift the national narrative of veterans as victims to veterans as invaluable assets in their communities. They charge Democrats focus too much on bloated bureaucratic solutions to issues like veterans unemployment, mental health and homelessness.

"Our nation’s veterans have been our nation’s strength and remain a national resource," the platform states. "America has a sacred trust with our veterans, and we are committed to ensuring them and their families' care and dignity."

That includes making VA health care "the gold standard for mental health, traumatic brain injury, multiple traumas, loss of limbs and post-traumatic stress disorder." But the platform also calls for "allowing veterans to choose to access care in the community and not just in VA facilities, because the best care in the world is not effective if it is not accessible."

That issue has emerged as a key fight between the parties on the campaign trail, with Democrats charging that the Republican ideas amount to privatization of veterans medical care and a dismantling of the department.

Platform authors also suggest making more senior VA leaders political appointees, arguing that will make them more accountable to a Republican president intent on reforming the system. It would also likely mean more turnover from administration to administration.

The document calls over-prescription of opioids for veterans health care "a nationwide problem" and encourages alternative treatments for issues like TBI and PTSD. That includes unspecified "including faith-based programs" that will "better serve the veteran and reduce the need to rely on drugs as the sole treatment."

The full document is available on the party’s website.

Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at

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