Four whistleblowers with a history of revealing incompetence and corruption at the Department of Veterans Affairs are calling on President-elect Trump to make veteran Pete Hegseth as the next VA secretary.
Hegseth, a Fox News contributor and former CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, is in the running for the job, along with veteran and former Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla. But the whistleblowers said Hegseth is the best choice because he understands the need to dramatically reform the broken agency.
"The reality is very little has changed within the VA system," they wrote to Trump. "It remains a bloated bureaucracy that looks for its own well-being and does not put the veterans first."
"This is why we have come together to give you our endorsement of Pete Hegseth as the next secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs," they said.
The four signatories to the letter are Shea Wilkes and Ryan Honl, former Army officers, Joseph Colon, a Navy veteran and VA employee in San Juan, and Brandon Coleman, a Marine Corps veteran. They have appeared in TV interviews about problems at the VA, and have testified before Congress on issues such as the system-wide effort to disguise how long veterans were waiting for healthcare appointments.
While the Obama administration has claimed progress on that issue, recent reports indicate little has changed, and the letter agreed that major problems remain at the agency.
"The reality is very little has changed within the VA system," they wrote. "It remains a bloated bureaucracy that looks for its own well-being and does not put the veterans first."
"The VA has worked much harder to destroy the whistleblowers who have reported wrongdoing that has been proven than to actually attempt to fix the many issues regarding unsafe and patient care at hand," they added.
Another problem has been the failure of the VA to fire more than a handful of people involved in the systemic problems. But the whistleblowers said Hegseth would bring accountability to the agency.
"Pete has the mental fortitude to take on the bureaucrats and the unions that place their interests over the needs of our nation's heroes," they wrote. "He believes in accountability, because we all know, the success of an organization depends on it."
"Those root issues are the inability to terminate corrupt federal employees without an erroneous and lengthy process that protects wrongdoers instead of disabled veterans," they added. "Pete is not the kind of person to accept the excuses of bureaucrats and false optimism that routinely surrounds VA secretaries."
The whistleblowers also predicted that Hegseth would be opposed by the federal employee union, the American Federation of Government Employees. But they said, "This is exactly the reason Mr. Hegseth is the right choice to run the VA."