VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia — Donald Trump laid out his plans Monday to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs and root out fraud and wrongdoing within the scandal-plagued agency, in a speech also peppered with barbs aimed at Hillary Clinton.
The presumptive Republican nominee promised a “full investigation” into the agency’s scandals that came to light two years ago and laid out several reforms to improve veterans’ services, including establishing a 24-hour White House hotline to address veterans’ complaints about the VA and giving all veterans access to private medical care on the government’s dime.
“I will instruct my staff that if a valid complaint is not addressed, that the issue be brought directly to me,” Trump said. “And I will pick up the phone and fix it myself if I have to.”
But Trump spoke about more than policy proposals as he read prepared remarks Monday in this city that is home to several military bases. He also addressed last week’s attack on Dallas police officers and sought to draw a contrast between himself and Clinton.
“I am the law and order candidate,” Trump said Monday. “Crooked Hillary Clinton is the secretary of the status quo and wherever Hillary Clinton goes, corruption and scandal will follow. Just look at her life.”
The Justice Department, following an FBI recommendation, declined to press criminal charges against Clinton for use of a private email server while leading the State Department.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor who is being vetted to potentially become Trump’s running mate, made the case against Clinton in brief remarks before Trump’s speech and boosted trump as “a president who once again will put law and order” as a top priority.
Before making a similar case himself, Trump opened his remarks Monday by offering his full backing to law enforcement in the wake of the Dallas shooting that killed five police officers.
He lamented the “ongoing catastrophe of crime” in inner cities and argued police officers face similar “harassment” of the nature U.S. soldiers returning from the Vietnam War faced.
Picking up on the theme that Clinton is part of a “rigged system,” Trump also knocked Clinton as out of touch for comments she made last fall in which she said the VA problems have “not been as widespread as it has been made out to be.”
“The disconnect in America is deep. There are two Americas. The ruling class and the groups it favors and then everyone else,” Trump said.
For his part, Trump laid out what he called a “10-step plan” to reform the VA, which included a number of accountability measures already enacted by Congress and signed by Obama.
But Trump also promised to go beyond some existing measures, vowing that he would extend access to private health care to all veterans, not just those who live more than 40 miles away from a VA center or who can’t get an appointment within 30 days. Trump first promised last fall that he would allow veterans to use their veterans’ ID card to access private health care, but did not lay out specific parameters as he did Monday.