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Veterans Helped Trump Win, But Critics Warn He May Dismantle Their Public Medical Care

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Exit polls show Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton two to one among veterans, and analysts say they may have delivered the presidency to Trump because of the high percentage of veterans in Wisconsin and Michigan. “He never made really explicit promises beyond the promise that if you could not get an appointment quickly from the [Veterans Administration], that you could go see a private doctor,” says longtime veterans’ affairs reporter Aaron Glantz. “This has a lot of people worried that he will dismantle the VA system, which was built up over many generations, a national network of hospitals and many dedicated professionals who are real specialists in the needs of people wounded in war.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: You also have done a great deal on veterans. Can you talk—he hasn’t yet chosen head of the VA. Names are being bandied about, from Scott Brown, the former senator from Massachusetts, who Elizabeth Warren has said she would support, to Sarah Palin.

AARON GLANTZ: Well, I think that Sarah Palin would be a huge shock to the entire veterans community. We have never had a secretary of Veterans Affairs who is not a veteran him or herself. And, I mean, Donald Trump received tremendous support from the military and veterans community. Exit polls show that he beat Hillary Clinton two to one amongst veterans. And if you look at the very narrow margin of victory in places like Wisconsin and Michigan and the high percentage of veterans in those states, you could almost say that veterans delivered the presidency to Donald Trump.

Now, we have to see, well, what is Donald Trump going to do for these veterans? You know, he spoke to them directly. He promised to honor our veterans. But he never made really explicit promises beyond the promise that if you could not get an appointment quickly from the VA, that you could go see a private doctor. And this has a lot of people worried that he will dismantle the VA system, which was built up over many generations, a national network of hospitals with many dedicated professionals who are real specialists in the needs of people who have been wounded in war. And everyone, myself included—I’ve done many exposés about problems at the VA over medication, long waits for disability compensation and healthcare, but there’s a real concern amongst some that he might dismantle the VA. And it was made even more substantiated when the only veterans group that he’s met with since his election has been the former head of Concerned Veterans of America, which is a very conservative veterans group, funded in part by the Koch brothers. So, he has not met with the American Legion or the VFW or Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. And this week, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America demanded a meeting with him, and it will be interested to see what happens.

AMY GOODMAN: And the Koch brothers’ interest in this? Are you saying it’s about privatization of the VA?

AARON GLANTZ: Yeah, I think that the—there is a huge debate about the role of government support of medicine in this country. You know, some people accuse Obamacare of being socialized medicine. But we really only have one major example of socialized medicine in this country right now, and it’s the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is a government-run healthcare system for 8 million American veterans. And dismantling it has long been a priority of people who think the government should not be in the business of healthcare.

AMY GOODMAN: Very quickly, Robert Weissman, before we wrap up with you, I wanted to go back to a comment of Donald Trump when he was responding to Maria Bartiromo when she asked him about how he would handle his assets if he was elected president.

DONALD TRUMP: I would put it in a blind trust. Well, I don’t know if it’s a blind trust if Ivanka, Don and Eric run it, but—is that a blind trust? I don’t know. But I would probably have my children run it with my executives, and I wouldn’t ever be involved, because I wouldn’t care about anything but our country. Anything.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that was Donald Trump earlier this year. As we wrap up, Robert Weissman, President-elect Trump says he will hold a news conference with his children on December 15th. Lay out what you want to hear and what the public letter is that you have written along with many other groups to President-elect Trump.

ROBERT WEISSMAN: You know, there are hard ethical questions in life, and this is not one of them. There’s only one solution to this problem, which is for him to completely sell off the businesses. He cannot give it over to the children. Neither he nor the children can have anything to do with the businesses. because it’s quite obvious the children are going to be centrally involved in policymaking. So, that’s what we’d like to see. And really, there’s universal agreement around this very simple point from anybody who thinks about government ethics, and even including from The Wall Street Journal editorial page. What we expect he’s going to do in a couple weeks’ time is say that he’s handing over control, but not ownership, to the children, and he won’t pay attention anymore. You know, and it will be great if he’s not involved, as president, in picking out the tiles for the bathroom in the next hotel, but it’s not going to make a wit of difference.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Robert Weissman, I want to thank you for being with us, president of Public Citizen. We’ll link to the letter that you all have written to President-elect Trump. And I want to thank Aaron Glantz, senior reporter at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.

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