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National
Donald Trump, Sarah Palin and the push to privatize the VA
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Donald Trump, Sarah Palin and the push to privatize the VA

Donald Trump, Sarah Palin and the push to privatize the VA
Photo Credit: Andrew Burton
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 31: Former U.S. Vice presidential candidate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R), and Donald Trump walk towards a limo after leaving Trump Tower, at 56th Street and 5th Avenue, on May 31, 2011 in New York City. Palin and Trump met for a dinner meeting in the city. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Donald Trump, Sarah Palin and the push to privatize the VA

As speculation swirls over who President-elect Donald Trump will appoint to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, some veterans advocates are increasingly worried that the new administration will set the $180-billion department on the path to privatization.

>> Read more trending stories

Fueling the concerns, the Trump transition team includes an advisor to Concerned Veterans for America, a Koch brothers-backed group that favors allowing veterans to choose where they get their health care. Such an approach, on a much smaller scale, emerged in the aftermath of nationwide scandals related to long wait times at VA facilities and claims that in some cases veterans died while waiting for care.

But while Congress has allowed some veterans who face long VA waits for certain medical procedures to seek outside care from private providers, many advocates fear opening up the program to include all veterans would lead inevitably to the massive health system’s disintegration.

Further stoking the privatization fears, a former CEO of the group, Pete Hegseth, has been floated as a potential Trump nominee to lead the VA. For its part, the group insists it is not seeking to dismantle the VA, but merely to reform it and offer more choice to veterans languishing on wait lists.

On Thursday morning, the nation’s largest veterans service organizations, including the American Legion, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Vietnam Veterans of America, met with members of the Trump transition team to emphasize their opposition to any push to privatize the VA.

“The American Legion opposes getting rid of the VA healthcare system,” said Executive Director Verna Jones in a press conference following the meeting. “Veterans deserve a system that is set up for them, that understands veterans. (Getting rid of the VA) would be a slap in the face of all of us who served.”

One wild card in the equation is former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who has also emerged as a candidate for VA secretary in the Trump administration. She hasn’t commented specifically on whether she believes the VA should be privatized, but on her Facebook page she reacted to news that Trump was considering her by saying: “We should be grateful we’ll soon have a commander-in-chief who will champion our vets and honor the promises our nation made; a pro-private sector individual who surely understands bigger government is NOT the answer.”

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  • Moments after opening fire on three suspected burglars inside his home just outside Broken Arrow Monday, Zach Peters called 911. [HEAR THE 911 CALL HERE] KRMG has obtained a recording of that call, in which Peters tells the call taker he shot two men, and “I believe one of them’s shot bad.” Peters thought he had only hit two of the suspects when he opened up with AR-15 after hearing them break into the home. But as it turned out, all three of them died on the scene. Wagoner County deputies identify them as Maxwell Cook, 19, Jacob Redfern, 17, and Jaykob Woodruff, 16. A fourth suspect, who reportedly drove the trio to the home with the intent to burglarize it, never entered the house. Elizabeth Rodriguez, 21, later turned herself in at the Broken Arrow Police Department. The District Attorney is reviewing the case to see if Peters might face any charges, but investigators indicate they think that unlikely.
  • A paralyzed man was able to feed himself for the first time in eight years, after doctors implanted sensors in his brain that sent signals to his arm. Bill Kochevar was paralyzed from the shoulders down after a cycling accident in Cleveland in 2006. To help him move again, in 2014, doctors surgically placed two tiny implants into his brain to pick up signals from neurons from the area that controls hand movement. The signals are relayed through external cables to a computer, which sends commands to electrodes in his arm and hand muscles. After first practicing with virtual reality, Kochevar was then able to drink coffee through a straw and eat forkfuls of mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese on his own. 'It was amazing,' the 56-year-old Kochevar said. 'I couldn't believe I could do it just by thinking about it.' But after years of being paralyzed, Kochevar's shoulder wasn't strong enough to lift his arm, so doctors also provided Kochevar with a robotic arm support for extra assistance. Kochevar's case is detailed by his doctors in a paper published Tuesday in the journal Lancet.
  • A project to resurface nearly six miles of US-75 in Tulsa is scheduled to start Monday, April 3 and will have a major impact to traffic through early summer 2017.  ODOT told KRMG the project is to resurface both directions of US-75 from near the western I-244 junction (Red Fork Split) to near the Creek Turnpike/SH-364 junction.  Various lane and ramp closures can be expected throughout the project. Due to the time needed for patching work and for the type of overlay, there will lane closures in place during peak travel times.  Drivers are urged to plan ahead for significant delays in this corridor, especially during the morning and evening commutes, and should seek an alternate route if possible.  Click here to check the traffic before you hit the road.
  • SPUR, Texas - Three storm chasers were killed when their vehicles collided at a rural crossroads during severe West Texas storms on Tuesday. The storms spawned multiple funnel clouds and an occasional tornado in open areas of West Texas on Tuesday afternoon. No damage was reported. The crash happened at a remote intersection near the town of Spur, about 55 miles southeast of Lubbock. Tornadoes had been reported nearby at the time of the crash and heavy rain had been reported in the area, according to the National Weather Service. The Texas Department of Public Safety identified the three storm chasers killed as Kelley Gene Williamson, 57, and Randall Delane Yarnall, 55, both of Cassville, Missouri, and Corbin Lee Jaeger, 25, of Peoria, Arizona. DPS Sgt. John Gonzalez said the Chevrolet Suburban driven by Williamson ran a stop sign and slammed into the Jeep driven by Yarnall with Jaeger as passenger. All three were killed instantly. In Oklahoma, video from KOKH-TV showed a semitrailer that overturned on Interstate 40 near El Reno due to high winds. On Wednesday, the threat shifts eastward, and forecasters say about 19 million people in Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana could see stormy weather, including the possibility of strong tornadoes.
  • Fake coupons for low-cost grocery store ALDI have been making the rounds again on Facebook and could give computers viruses. WSYR reported that Facebook user Melissa Sheriff noticed a post that claimed to offer a $100 off coupon at ALDI stores, and it seemed too good to be true. 'Next thing I know everyone is sharing it,' Sheriff said. 'People are sharing it on each other's pages and messaging the coupon to each other and tagging each other in posts saying, ‘Great deal, great deal, you have to print out this coupon.'' Aaron Sumida, vice president of ALDI’s Tully division, issued the following statement in response to the scam: We understand the confusion that some customers have experienced with digital coupon scams affecting ALDI and other retailers. On Friday, we shared a post on our Facebook page to let our customers know that ALDI doesn't issue electronic coupons or gift cards. These offers weren't authorized or distributed by ALDI and will not be honored at ALDI locations. We sincerely regret any inconvenience this situation may cause our customers. ALDI also addressed the scam in a Facebook post Friday. “There’s a fake ALDI coupon making its way around the internet…again. We don’t offer electronic coupons and they won’t be accepted at our stores. We’re working on fixing the situation, so if you’d like to help us out and spread the news, feel free to share this post. We’re sorry for the confusion,” the company said.