Interviews

Montel Williams: We've got to 'change the system' at the VA

How can we better care for our vets?

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," July 1, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: You know, my buddy Montel Williams was listening to this as Chad was speaking and shaking his head.

God knows.

MONTEL WILLIAMS, FOUNDER, MONTEL MEDIA GROUP: Tick, tick, tick. You said it, 20 a day.

CAVUTO: Do you believe this?

WILLIAMS: I do not believe this.

I'm not going to argue with the president and his choice. I'm going to argue that I think that we're going to see more than 30 days for this. This is the Congress and the Senate that believes that anything he does, they have got to make sure they drag out.

So here goes another 90 days. Tick, tick, tick, 90 times 20, 180 soldiers have to die before they get off and do something? And why is that every day I keep hearing the president? Bold. I support him in this. You want to be bold and do something because nobody else is going to do it? He said, I'm stuck with a good plan. I'm going to use my executive privilege to take care of immigration. He's going to use his executive privilege...

CAVUTO: Well, here's one where you could put Republicans right on the spot, say, all right, you don't like my executive orders, you're taking me to court over them. Here's one I dare you to fight me on. I'm going to put McDonald in there right now. I'm going to give him carte blanche power to do whatever the hell he wants. What are you going to do?

I dare say no one is going to do anything if he did that.

WILLIAMS: I think he should. This is the one he should step up.

CAVUTO: But why isn't he?

WILLIAMS: I don't know. He's not listening to me.

CAVUTO: What would you do? What would you do?

WILLIAMS: Well, exactly what you just said.

I'm not necessarily sure that McDonald is the best, because I don't know anything about him.

CAVUTO: Granted, Granted.

WILLIAMS: But let's just say that he's the best.

I want to give him the authority when he walks in the door with what the president has asked Congress to do, give him firing authority on day one.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: He doesn't have that now. He doesn't have it now.

WILLIAMS: So, what I'm doing with the executive order, if you put me in office, I'm putting him in office today, I'm giving him executive privilege to be able to fire some people in there that we know were part of the scheme and scam to steal from Americans and veterans.

And then what I'm going to do is I'm also going to order, like I keep saying, #VAsurge, #VAsurge.

CAVUTO: And what would that do again, for those who didn't catch your other appearances?

WILLIAMS: What that will do -- what that will do is that would immediately allow me to put money in place that has already been budgeted, bring on the staff we need to find out the bottom line.

Look at this. They're talking of a budget of $35 billion. Are you kidding? A lie.

CAVUTO: That's $35 billion more.

WILLIAMS: That's a lie, though.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Now, let me ask you this. We're talking about -- this amazes me. It gets $158 billion a year.

WILLIAMS: Right.

CAVUTO: I know it's hard to track this money, but it would seem with $158 billion a year, we could certainly do a better job taking care of our veterans. What happens?

WILLIAMS: I think, again, we go back to this problem. Remember, I told you last time about that chicken. Here we go.

You can cut the head off all you want. Middle management has got to go. We have got change the system and turn it back into a system that supplies product to soldiers. So logistically we have to get the services to the soldiers. That has to happen today.

And, unfortunately, we're not thinking that way. Right you, we have to figure out. It's going to take Congress and the Senate to sit down and pass a bill -- $38 million?

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: We don't even know what the bottom line is; $38 million may not touch it.

CAVUTO: Right.

WILLIAMS: Neil, truthfully, remember, you got soldiers who have not seen doctors for four years, some of them left off the list.

CAVUTO: My theory on this, Montel -- and you know this agency far better than I -- that there's plenty of money there. It's not being spent on the right purpose or for the right folks.

So that begs an issue then, if money is not the issue, what is? If it's just incompetence, giving more money would just reward that incompetence then, right?

WILLIAMS: Correct, but if we can give the leadership, put McDonald in place, give him the authority to get rid of people, and restructure the system.

CAVUTO: Don't you think he would have made that deal? Mr. President, I will do this.

If the president gave you that power, that would be interesting.

WILLIAMS: To me?

CAVUTO: That if the president were to say, Montel, I'm going to give you the power to take over the VA, I'm sure you would say, Mr. President, you have to give me carte blanche power to do what I want.

I would think that McDonald -- I know a little bit about him from his CEO days. He does know how to extract things out of his people. He would have had to have gotten that.

WILLIAMS: If the president would give me that or give him that today, we could start fixing this problem.

It's just like -- Neil, let me tell you, I have been talking to you about something for four years now. Four-and-a-half years ago, I started -- four years ago, I started in a double blind study at the University of Wisconsin with a medical device that I told you four years ago that was helping me with M.S.

And as I continued to use this over the course of the last four years, I'm telling you I ran all over the place trying to see if I could get support. Well, guess what? I signed a CRDA with the federal government last year, a cooperative research and development agreement.

I just took this company public, with the help of some people, last week. I'm going to work really hard to get technology into the hands of soldiers hopefully that will help them the way it's helped me.

CAVUTO: Good for you.

WILLIAMS: And -- but this is something that I beat the bushes and beat the bushes and beat the bushes and beat the bushes. I got it done.

Mr. McDonald could do the same thing. These are people who do people...

CAVUTO: It's doable.

WILLIAMS: Give them the authority.

CAVUTO: It's definitely doable.

By the way, and, Montel has M.S. I have M.S. I disclose that. I try not to with Montel because he is so much more with and energetic than I am.

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: No, but I'm blessed. I'm blessed.

CAVUTO: I want to draw sympathy for me, and you're not helping me.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: So, let me step back from this, Montel, and just talk about Washington...

WILLIAMS: Sure.

CAVUTO: ... to me just seems broken. And if Washington doesn't sense the urgency of this, I'm beginning to think that maybe the VA is the problem, the bureaucrats running it. That's the problem. Maybe we don't need a VA. Then what do we do?

WILLIAMS: No, we have to have a VA.

CAVUTO: You do?

WILLIAMS: We have to have a system where soldiers can at least work with soldiers...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Why not put them to the front of the line at regular hospitals?

WILLIAMS: Because I don't think you have the -- you don't right now the skill set at a regular hospital to deal with the multiple different types of injuries and issues that our soldiers deal with.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: So, there's something unique to them coming back from battle that a general hospital would not be right.

WILLIAMS: Right.

CAVUTO: Gotcha.

WILLIAMS: But if you add the two together, we could make this happen.

So, there's a way, like I said in my surge. I want a triage. Find out who needs help. Those that can be sent to a civilian hospital for...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: What would you do, though?

You happened to mention something last time I think about a pecking order of three rated injuries, right, or those who most need the care get a certain level of care, right?

WILLIAMS: Well, no, I don't want to change the level of care. I want to be able to take and move these people.

CAVUTO: But let's say you're in urgent need of getting attention now. You get...

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: Walter Reed or one of the chronic centers, if I'm a soldier.

If I'm a guy who is not in urgent need, let's say I need dialysis, and I don't suffer from PTSD, I can go to the local hospital.

CAVUTO: Gotcha.

WILLIAMS: Move them up to the top of the line. I got a person...

CAVUTO: So prioritize.

WILLIAMS: Prioritize and help them where we can, but those who need help from soldiers, we should put them in a place to do so.

And I want to also say one more thing, Neil. Listen, I don't get it. I don't -- they're never going to listen to me. I'm one of these loose cannons. People don't like Montel Williams, because they don't have a control over me.

CAVUTO: Well, I don't know. You haven't seen the e-mails you generate.

WILLIAMS: Yes, but I'm going to tell you, from the administration standpoint, I'm one of those guys that nobody has control of.

CAVUTO: Well, by the way, you are right there, because Democrats and Republicans seem to hate you.

WILLIAMS: Correct. They do equally now.

But there are other people out here that are working with veterans just like myself, who are veterans, who can help you understand this. If you're not going to reach out to me just because you don't like my politics, reach out to these people who understand.

I was told this past week -- but, again, in my surge petition originally, I suggested Ken Fisher.

CAVUTO: Yes. Yes.

WILLIAMS: And I still suggest that, in case Mr. McDonald does not make it through the process.

CAVUTO: He will make it through.

WILLIAMS: He will, OK.

So, he makes it through. But he should be reaching out to people like logisticians, like Admiral Straw, who can help them get the services into the hands...

CAVUTO: Does it bug you that in this case, McDonald, he is a West Point graduate and served in the military the first five years, then got out.

WILLIAMS: Sure.

CAVUTO: But not recent. A lot of present-day Iraqi, Afghan veterans say he doesn't relate to them. You say? Does that matter?

WILLIAMS: I say that he wore the uniform and he probably never took it off. So I trust him and his ability.

But, again, I can chop his head off and the organization still exists. We need to fix that middle management group. Give him the authority to fire. The president has asked Congress before they left to do this and they took off with their little tails between their legs and ran away.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: You're right about that.

WILLIAMS: Now they're going to come back and they're going to stretch this out for another month or two months.

CAVUTO: But one thing about you, you're very passionate, Montel.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

CAVUTO: And I always think that I don't see that in John Boehner. I certainly don't see it in the president.

Now, a lot of people who look at the president and say, there's a method to being no-drama Obama, but some situations I think call for drama on everybody's part.

WILLIAMS: How about -- I got a drama for you. For those who don't like me right now in the political world, wait until November and find out what I do with the soldiers across this country who are feeling neglected right now.

CAVUTO: Who are they going to take it out on?

WILLIAMS: Oh, how about taking it out anybody who has not done something to correct it today?

CAVUTO: What if in November it's still as bad as it is now?

WILLIAMS: Then I'm going to beg for every soldier and veteran to start a new party in America, called the Veterans Party, those who made that's country possible and beg for others' support.

And until we get a bill that comprehensively pays the debt for the fact that we're free to talk, then I don't think any one of them in office deserves to be there. And I will fight whoever is not going to back our boys. That's my plan. When I say something, I'm going to do it.

CAVUTO: I know you visit -- I know you visit these guys.

No, no, no, believe me, I know that. But I know you go to visit these guys and these women.

WILLIAMS: How about 350 last Thursday?

CAVUTO: How -- what's their mood like? When they see what is going on, and -- do they feel like, hey, wait a minute?

WILLIAMS: I was at the Fisher House last Thursday in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

My sister and myself and my chef, we fed 270 of them face-to-face, and we said -- fed 40 people from the psych word that came over, and we fed another 40. What are they saying to me? Montel, please don't let up. No one else is talking.

Isn't that sad? I don't know why I'm the only big mouth right now doing this. But we need more big mouths, because those guys are feeling left behind. Every day that goes by, when they hear somebody like you or I say, 22 died and no one does anything, how would you feel?

CAVUTO: You're right.

WILLIAMS: So, that's why I'm here.

I'm not going to stop. You think I'm going to go away? As long as you give me a voice every couple days, Neil, I will just come back here to you, because guess what? I can't get on ABC, NBC, CBS. They won't talk to me on a morning show, afternoon show, nobody. Why? Because...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: I don't believe that. Really?

WILLIAMS: My friend, not one of them will give me a place to discuss this.

They can talk all the trash they want about how they support the troops, and then I'm not talking about me. Bring somebody else on. But start talking about this, because this doesn't make for frilly morning TV. It doesn't make for interesting blood on the -- the blood on the streets of America, kind of stuff that we lead the evening news with.

We should be leading the evening news with the guys who have already paid this price every single day until we fix it.

CAVUTO: You're a good man, Montel.

WILLIAMS: Thank you, sir.

CAVUTO: Everything you say is right.

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