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President Trump accomplished several things with this ceremony: promise keeping, serving veterans, and reforming healthcare. The first two were obvious and significant, the third was indirect and rhetorical.
President Trump signed the VA Mission Act, which extended the Veterans Affairs’ Choice Program for one year while the department worked to consolidate its seven community care programs into one. A number of Republican lawmakers were in attendance at the Rose Garden ceremony. Before signing the bill, President Trump thanked those lawmakers for their support of the legislation and talked about recently released unemployment numbers.
Donald Trump, all the way back at The Art of the Deal, noted that the American people figure out what a president is really all about before the end of his first term. President Trump has demonstrated from Day One that he will defend his brand of political promise keeping. Look back to Trump’s victory speech:
We will also finally take care of our great veterans who have been so loyal, and I’ve gotten to know so many over this 18-month journey.The time I’ve spent with them during this campaign has been among my greatest honors. Our veterans are incredible people.
With the VA Mission Act, he again took an action to take care of our veterans:
My pledge to you, our noble warriors, is that my Administration will support you, and your loved ones, and your amazing families every single day, now and always.
This is on top of last year’s law making the firing of bad VA employees easier—a major move in the face of the whole federal bureaucracy’s investment in career protection rules. President Trump’s refusal to stand pat on DVA Secretaries without fast enough results is portrayed as chaotic, but also shows he really expects results for veterans.
The VA Mission Act serves veterans by allowing access to medical care outside the VA medical facilities. This access is granted when care is not available in VA facilities near the veteran, or when timely access to local VA care is not available. Veterans are given greater choice in healthcare.
Beyond promise-keeping and service to veterans, there is an indirect effect on the national healthcare system debate. Giving veterans more choice, and choice beyond government-run facilities, pushes back against the move towards a national health service, lately pitched as “Medicare for all.” Beyond repeal of the individual mandate, the President can point to another action by a Republican Congress, before the midterm election, to incrementally “repeal and replace Obamacare.”
The incremental movements towards popular, commonsensical reforms belies opponents’ image of President Trump as crazy, lazy, or incompetent. It may even help Congress reclaim its place as the first branch of government, regaining credibility on the margins as a legislature. So far, we see the individual mandate repealed, people with terminal illness given the right to try (“right to hope” as the President said), and one massive federal healthcare system’s grip on patients being chipped away.