DIXON – Rep. Adam Kinzinger sat among a group of a dozen veterans Friday afternoon at the Dixon VFW Hall to discuss, among other things, the recent Department of Veterans Affairs scandal.
Kinzinger, R-Channahon, represents the state’s 16th congressional district, which includes Lee County.
“It’s not new,” he said of the VA backlog issue. “But it’s been really creeping up to the front – well actually blowing up to the front lines.”
Kinzinger said he was quick to call for the resignation of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, who left the job last month.
Among the ideas discussed Friday to possibly fix the issues with the VA was bringing in a hospital administrator with experience in a large hospital system to run the agency.
“At the end of the day, the VA is not a military organization,” Kinzinger said. “It’s a health care organization that has clients that are in the military.”
During the roundtable discussion, Kinzinger encouraged the veterans to contact his office if they have problems with the VA. The veterans also shared some of their frustrations about the bureaucracy of the VA and system.
A veteran suggested that a voucher system allowing veterans to get care at local hospitals might be more financially efficient and cut down on the bureaucracy.
“I think there is a very good argument to be made for that,” Kinzinger said in response. “... I know the national American Legion and the national VFW, of which I’m members of both, have resisted this idea.
“And I can understand the nervousness. They’re afraid that if the whole VA is disbanded, that that money is then not going to be put into veteran care.”
With recent legislation to allow veterans with long waits at VA facilities to seek care elsewhere, at the VA’s expense, Kinzinger said he thought things were on the right path toward getting veterans care.
“I think this is almost a test run to see how it works,” he said.
Critical of Bergdahl deal
Kinzinger was critical of the Obama administration’s actions to negotiate the release of Bowe Bergdahl, the American soldier who had been held captive by the Taliban for 5 years.
Bergdahl was released last month in an exchange for 5 senior Taliban leaders, something Kinzinger said put the country at risk.
Some current and former soldiers who served with Bergdahl have made public statements accusing him of desertion.
Kinzinger, who joined the Air Force in 2003 and is a pilot in the Air National Guard, said during training he was told that the country will always be faithful to soldiers taken captive and will always try to get them back, although not at any price.
“I do think that that is not a valid promise when you leave your country,” he said. “... If it had been a [special forces raid] I would have celebrated it and said try him in a court of law for desertion.”
Go to www.kinzinger.house.gov or call 815-547-8226 or 202-225-3635 for more information or to contact Rep. Adam Kinzinger's office.