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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez claims the VA system has the 'highest quality care,' doesn't need to be fixed
Yana Paskova/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez claims the VA system has the 'highest quality care,' doesn't need to be fixed

The Department of Veterans Affairs has been plagued by scandal and long wait times

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said during a town hall in New York City that she thought people needed to stop talking about fixing the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA, she argued, "provides some of the highest quality care to our veterans" and "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

What did she say?

According to video footage from the event,

There are some things that you're hearing today. There are some themes that we've got coming out, especially when it comes to the VA. All I can think of is that classic refrain that my parents always taught me growing up, is that: "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Exactly. Don't fix it.

...That is the opening and approach that we have seen when it comes to privatization, is the idea that this thing that isn't broken. This thing that provides some of the highest quality care to our veterans, somehow needs to be fixed, optimized, tinkered with, until we don't even recognize it anymore.

She then accused lawmakers of only trying to fix the VA to benefit pharmaceutical and insurance companies, and the for-profit health care industry.

What about the VA problems?

In March 2014, former Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned after the department's own inspector general determined that VA officials had falsified records to mask the fact that veterans were being made to wait on average 115 days for an initial appointment at a Phoenix medical center. At least 35 of the veterans seeking care at this facility died while on waiting lists. And while Phoenix was particularly plagued with problems, similar issues were happening at VA facilities across the nation.

A week before Shinseki was fired, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told CBS News that "someone has to be accountable" for what was going on in the VA, although he said he did not think Shinseki should be that person.

A report by The Associated Press in May 2015 found that even after Shinseki stepped down and promises were made to reform the department, one in 36 veterans (roughly 894,000) had to wait at least a month for an appointment at VA facilities across the country, and almost 232,000 had to wait more than 60 days.

A report by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel from January 2017 found that the Phoenix location "continues to struggle with significant patient wait times."

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