By PNC Harvey Weiner
JWV and other veterans’ organizations were invited to a virtual meeting with the Biden-Harris Defense Transition Agency Review Team on January 11, 2021. The purpose was to share JWV’s top priorities, issues, concerns, and recommendations with the transition team. This is the first time that anyone at JWV National recalled such a request coming from a presidential transition team. Since there would presumably be no equivalent meeting with a veterans transition team, if one existed at all, National decided to focus on veterans’ issues, rather than defense issues. This would be our only chance to have input.
I requested input from various JWV individuals, and ultimately, we decided on two issues. As JWV’s National Liaison Officer for the Department of Veterans Affairs, here is what I presented:
“Good afternoon, everyone, I am Harvey Weiner, a Vietnam War combat veteran, and immediate Past National Commander and National Liaison Officer of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA, America’s oldest active veterans’ organization. We, the JWV, will celebrate our 125th anniversary in just over two months – March 15th.
I am going to focus on veterans’, rather than on defense issues, because this seems to be our one chance to say something.
Our first concern is the conduct of the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs. He must make a public pledge that his primary loyalty will be to veterans and not to the Administration. As you may know, this may not have been true for the present Secretary, because when a female veteran [who was Jewish and a JWV member] was recently sexually harassed at a VA facility, she, and not the sexual harasser, was initially investigated by the Secretary because this female veteran worked for a Democrat. Many of the veterans’ groups you are hearing from today, including some who rarely, if ever, take public positions, called for President Trump to fire the Secretary or for the Secretary to resign.
The proposed new Secretary is neither a veteran nor a healthcare expert, even though he will oversee the largest healthcare network in the United States. He is a lifelong political operative and a bureaucrat. He must make a public pledge that his primary loyalties are with veterans and that he will act accordingly during his stewardship.
A second concern is for this new Administration to do nothing, directly or indirectly, to privatize and emasculate VA healthcare, but rather to act to reinvigorate it. The VA healthcare system has the expertise and experience to treat veterans, a unique group of patients, whereas private healthcare does not. If you read Dr. David Shulkin’s book, “It Shouldn’t be this Hard to Serve Your Country,” you will learn from a former Secretary of Veterans Affairs that the prior Administration had a not-so-secret plan to privatize VA healthcare and to weaken it. It did so solely for ideological reasons and not to help veterans. We insist that the present trend towards privatization, some of which is under the guise of so-called consolidation be reversed and that the present public VA healthcare system be strengthened [veterans are not the waste of war to be sacrificed on the alter of politics and ideology.]
Thank you very much for this opportunity and stay safe. I would be glad to answer any questions.”
There were no questions from the transition team, but I did receive a call to ask if JWV had any other issues it wanted to raise. I mentioned the removal of the remaining Nazi gravestone in Utah and the hope that the new President would reinstitute the prior practice of hosting a breakfast on Veterans Day in the White House with the National Commanders of the various veterans’ organizations.
Volume 75. Number 1. 2021