Dan Caldwell, the executive director of Concerned Veterans for America, said on "America's Newsroom" Wednesday that while many Americans get quality health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs system, those who served in the military and wish to join private networks should have that choice.
He said that New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez "is really off base" with her contention at a Town Hall last week that the veterans health care system is efficient and "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
"In many cases, yes, the V.A. is performing well, it is giving veterans high-quality care, but in other cases they aren't," Caldwell said. "Just because some veterans are getting good care isn't an excuse not to fix the V.A. for the veterans who aren't getting good care. And that's why we support giving veterans a choice, so if a veteran wants to access care in the community because he or she feels they aren't getting good care in the V.A., they can do that. And that's what President Trump supports -- not privatizing the V.A., not dismantling the V.A."
The V.A. Mission Act, which Congress passed in June and President Trump signed into law, allows veterans the option of using their benefits at a network of private health care providers.
"Through legislation like the V.A. Mission Act, they're trying to put the veteran at the center of the V.A., not the bureaucracy," Caldwell said. "Giving veterans a choice will force the private sector and the V.A. to compete for veterans, this will give veterans the power to choose."
The department was plagued by scandal during the Obama administration -- including secret wait lists, systemic neglect and veterans dying while waiting to see a doctor.
Caldwell credited Trump, Congress and V.A. Secretary Robert Wilkie for getting the measure passed. Wilkie is the fourth secretary to lead the VA in the past four years, while the VA’s $200 billion budget has doubled in the past decade.
"If implemented properly, it will fix a lot of the long-term systemic problems in the V.A.," he said, adding "You're seeing more people like Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez inside and outside trying to stop the implementation of the bill and keep veterans trapped in many cases in failing V.A. hospitals. And that's not just wrong, that's immoral."
President Trump on Wednesday took aim at Ocasio-Cortez's V.A. remarks, tweeting: "Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is correct, the VA is not broken, it is doing great. But that is only because of the Trump Administration. We got Veterans Choice & Accountability passed."
Ocasio-Cortez said at the Town Hall: "They are trying to fix it. But who are they trying to fix it for, is the question we've got to ask. And this is who they're trying to fix it for. They're trying to fix the V.A. for insurance companies. They're trying to fix it for insurance corporations, and ultimately they're trying to fix the V.A. for the for-profit health care industry that does not put people or veterans first."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.