Trump releases 10-step Veterans Affairs solution

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Trump Criticizes VA, Government and Clinton

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Tuesday released his plan to reform the Veteran's Administration, calling for private medical options for veterans as well as an expansion of technology and mental health services.

Trump detailed his 10-step plan at the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Tuesday, following the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Addressing the VA has gained urgency in recent years, in light of the agency's scandal in which employees created falsified waiting lists to obscure the fact that veterans were not receiving timely medical care, leading to dozens of deaths. Advocacy groups have said the agency is still struggling to meet demands and that it has failed to hold employees responsible.

"The VA scandals that have occurred are widespread and totally inexcusable," Trump said at the event. "As we know, many have died waiting for care that never came. A permanent stain on our government."

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U.S. Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump arrives onstage at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is greeted by Ivanka Trump after his introduction at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
Ivanka Trump, daughter of Republican Presidential Nominee Donald J. Trump, waves as she walks off stage after introduction her father during the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Thursday, July 21, 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives two thumbs up to the crowd during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump acknowledges the crowd during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, speaks during the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Thursday, July 21, 2016. This evening marks the last night of a four-day Republican National Convention that has been defined by disorderly floor activity, divisions within the party, a plagiarized speech delivered by the nominee's wife and scattered protests in the streets of Cleveland. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump preapres to deliver his speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks on the last day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. / AFP / Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks on the last day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
The mouth of US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is seen on a big screen as he speaks on the last day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. / AFP / Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks on the last day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
A CODEPINK protester is removed while US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks on the last day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Delegates listen as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the final night of the Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, July 21, 2016. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump formally accepts the nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump formally accepts the nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Attendees listen to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump deliver his speech on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Deligates stand and cheer as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers his speech on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: An attendee stands and cheers as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers his speech on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Rudy Giuliani, right, former mayor of New York City, applauds as Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump addressed the audience during the final day of the 2016 Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, July 21, 2016. (Photo by Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: (L-R) Tiffany Trump, Barron Trump and Melania Trump listen to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump deliver his speech on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his family acknowledge the crowd on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (C L) and vice presidential candidate Mike Pence (C R) are joined by their families at the end of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump embraces his wife Melania on the final night of the Republican National Convention at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on July 21, 2016. / AFP / Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence stand with their families on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Balloons descend on the delegates as the families of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his nominee for vice-president Mike Pence appear on stage at the end of the last day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. / AFP / DOMINICK REUTER (Photo credit should read DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump embraces Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence after his speech on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
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Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, in mid-June released her plan to reform the VA, which addressed some similar themes to those raised by Trump. Clinton and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, have in the past accused Trump of wanting to privatize the VA, but his plan did not show indications that this was one of his goals.

Trump's plan did include allowing veterans to receive care from any doctor or medical facility that accepts Medicare, which he said would help decrease wait times.

"There will be no more waiting in line," he said. "If you're waiting in line, you're going to go to a private doctor across the street, a private hospital across the street or nearby and you'll be taken care of quickly and efficiently."

A report prepared by the VA's Commission on Care had called for expanding recipients' access to private services but stopped short of calling for full privatization of the department.

The plan also called for meeting the specific needs of female veterans, including ensuring VA hospitals are staffed with OB-GYNs and provide other women's health services. Trump vowed to increase the use of technology like telehealth and satellites and to increase funding for post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and suicide prevention services.

Trump also said he would fire VA employees and executives who failed to deliver care and meet demands. He indicated during his speech that he would put someone else in charge of the VA, though he did not specify whom that person would be other than to say it would be a person with an "outstanding track record."

"In other words: A person that can get it done," he said.

Eric Shinseki, a former Army combat commander who was serving as secretary during the time that VA wait times came to light, was forced to resign following what some in Congress called "a crisis of confidence" at the department.

Shinseki's replacement, Robert McDonald, himself a former Army soldier and pharmaceutical executive, continued to face criticism for not executing promised reforms quickly enough despite reducing the backlog of veterans waiting weeks or months to receive services.

Dan Caldwell, vice president for political and legislative action at Concerned Veterans for America, said he was happy to hear candidates and elected officials speaking out in favor of universal health care choice for veterans, as well as for more accountability for VA employees, both items that the group has advocated for.

Some veterans' advocates questioned whether Trump's announcement represented any new proposals for the beleaguered department or simply political lip service to a key political base.

"Politicians have been saying they'll fix the VA for decades. It's become standard political pander applause line," Paul Rieckhoff, CEO of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, tweeted during Trump's remarks. He called for more clarity on Trump's pledge to keep the department "a public trust" while exploring private options.

He specifically called for more clarity on a pledge Trump made to create a hotline, and how it would be different than the existing Veterans Crisis Line, as well as how Trump would keep the department "a public trust" while exploring private options.

Outside of medical care, Trump promised to help veterans with job training and placement services, educational support and business loans.

He pledged to "take care of our veterans like they have never been taken care of before." He aimed to cast Democrats as apathetic to the needs of veterans and the country's national security threats, pointing to a statement made by Clinton in which she said the VA scandal was not widespread, and to her use of a private email server, which he said could have put American safety at risk. He also questioned why Democrats had not yet mentioned the Islamic State group during their convention.

"Our veterans are the bravest and the finest people on earth," he said. "Our debt to you is eternal, yet our politicians have totally failed you."

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