VA healthcare and and government travel come under fire

February 23, 2018, 3:00 PM GMT+0

45% of veterans would like to see veterans’ needs served by the private sector

Even veterans aren’t sure the Veterans Administration is providing the best of care to the nation’s military. Like the rest of the public in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, veterans say the private sector might do a better job.

Democrats see a role for government over the private sector in dealing with veterans. Independents and Republicans disagree.

38% of the public, and 41% of military veterans think that veterans get worse care at VA hospitals than they would if they received health care from private doctors and hospitals.

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, like others who have held his position recently, must deal with the public memory of treatment scandals and poor conditions at Walter Reed Medical Center first reported in 2007. The Department has been criticized for long waits veterans face when seeking medical treatment at VA facilities. These concerns certainly make any Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary’s job much harder.

But Shulkin is also under attack for his travel, and accepting government payments for his wife to travel with him. In recent weeks other government officials, including Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Scott Pruitt, the head of the Department of Environmental Protection, have also been criticized for their use of private planes and for flying first class.

A lot of Americans can’t judge these men’s performance in office (just about half the public neither approve nor disapprove of each). But they do disapprove of their travel practices.

Just over a third say it’s even occasionally appropriate for the government to pay for spousal travel; just over a third say it can be sometimes appropriate for the government to pay for travel in first or business class. Republicans are somewhat more supportive of travel expenses for first class travel, but they are no more willing to have the government pay for spousal travel than is the public overall.

The EPA has admitted that Scott Pruitt, the agency’s head, has traveled first class to avoid public confrontations. This doesn’t necessarily make it more acceptable in the minds of Americans. Republicans aren’t even sure this is right: they are closely divided on whether officials facing an angry public should be allowed to fly in first or business class at government expense.

Read more topline and table results here

Image: Getty