Ranking Member Walz Demands Details Into Trump Administration’s Secret Plan To Merge VA Choice And DoD TRICARE
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Tim Walz (D-MN) released the following statement after he sent the following letter to President Donald Trump, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Dr. David Shulkin, Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary James Mattis demanding the details of an Administration proposal – developed without input from Congress or veterans groups – to merge VA and DoD health systems and expand VA reliance on private care.
In sending the letter, Ranking Member Walz was joined by Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee.
“Behind closed doors, the Trump Administration has begun drafting a proposal to merge VA community care and DoD’s TRICARE programs without input from Congress, our nation’s veterans, or community providers; this is absolutely unacceptable and the public deserves answers immediately,” said Rep Tim Walz, the highest ranking enlisted servicemember ever to serve in Congress. “A proposal of this magnitude would impact the lives of millions of veterans in communities across the country and has the potential to force unprecedented numbers of veterans into the private sector for their care. Not only that, but integrating veterans into the TRICARE program may possibly mean veterans would have to pay out of pocket for healthcare they have already earned through service in the military. To do this would be a betrayal of the brave men and women who have served and sacrificed in uniform.”
The text of the letter is available below:
Dear President Trump:
According to documents received by the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and reports in the press, we recently learned of secret meetings involving the participation of White House, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and Department of Defense (DOD) officials regarding the merger of the VA Choice Program and Department of Defense TRICARE private health care program. We are concerned this proposal is being developed without the input of Congress, Veterans Service Organizations and veterans who use the VA health care system, without the consultation of health care experts, and outside of public purview.
Specifically, we are aware of documents pertaining to a Policy Coordination Committee (PCC) meeting held at the White House on November 2, 2017 on the “Transformational Reform Proposal of TRICARE Integration” that would “directly impact veterans and uniform service retirees.” According to these documents, this was the second PCC meeting held at the White House by Darin Selnick, Veterans Affairs Advisor, on the Veterans Choice Program and TRICARE to discuss “a specific plan and timeline for the VA proposal” and VA’s “preferred option” that would be “discussed at the VA/DOD Health Executive Committee (HEC) and Joint Executive Committee (JEC) meetings in December 2017.”
Merging the Veterans Choice Program and TRICARE would dramatically change the way in which health care is delivered to veterans. No studies exist on how merging the two programs—both intended for two very different patient populations—would affect quality of care and cost to the U.S. taxpayer and to veterans. VA and Congress have been working with stakeholders for months to reform the Veterans Choice Program and the way in which VA administers community care. Secret discussions on merging TRICARE, a health insurance program paid for by DOD, with the Veterans Choice Program are contrary to these reforms being developed by Congress.
A proposal as significant as merging TRICARE and the Veterans Choice Program should be fully transparent to the public. It should be subject of Congressional hearings, and should include the input of veterans, military families, and retirees who would be affected.
Therefore, we request unredacted copies of any and all documents, records, memoranda, correspondence to include electronic correspondence via email and text message, and presentation materials or materials used in preparation for and during the meeting on November 2, 2017 and any meetings prior or subsequent to the November 2 meeting regarding the integration or merger of the Veterans Choice Program and the DoD TRICARE program. We also request copies of any and all records, notes, or minutes of the November 2 meeting, and meetings that have taken place prior or subsequent to the November 2 meeting regarding the merger of TRICARE and the Veterans Choice Program. Additionally, we request a list of participants and attendees including White House staff, VA officials and staff, and DOD officials and staff who attended the November 2 meeting and any meetings prior or subsequent to November 2 pertaining to the merger of the two programs.
Please provide the Committee and the requestors on this letter with the documents, materials, and lists of attendees by the close of business Friday, December 1, 2017. Provide the documents in electronic, soft-copy format. Do not alter the documents in any way, including but not limited to applications of redactions or a water mark. Only relevant documents and tangible things should be provided as part of the submission. Also provide the contact information for the individual(s) responsible for assembling the submission. This/These individual(s) shall certify and attest to the accuracy of the submission.
The deliverables opened by this request will not be closed until the Committee and the requestors on this letter are sufficiently satisfied with the responses provided, including whether the formatting instructions have been adhered to. The Committee and the below requestors reserve the right to, at their discretion, order an alternative organization of the submission. The White House has a continuing duty to supplement the record by providing relevant documents and tangible things to the Committee and the below requestors until the matter is closed.
Ranking Member, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
DEBBIE WASSERMAN SHULTZ
Ranking Member, House Committee on Appropriations