VA Sec Defends Decision to Evict Congressional Offices From Facilities, Touts Improvements Under Trump

President Donald J. Trump, joined by U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie, signs H.R. 2147, The Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act of 2018 Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)
President Donald J. Trump, joined by U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie, signs H.R. 2147, The Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act of 2018 Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie defended his position to evict Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) and five other members of Congress from their office spaces in two Florida facilities while touting the department’s improvement under President Donald Trump.

In a letter sent on Friday and obtained by IJR, Wilkie addressed Mast’s criticism of the VA’s removal of him and five other members — Reps. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), Darren Soto (D-Fla.), and Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) — from their office spaces in the West Palm Beach and Orlando VA Medical Centers.

In a Thursday interview with IJR, Mast said that he was kicked out of his space because the VA facilities exist to give medical care to veterans and congressional offices like his do not exist inside other government agencies.

Mast said that the space he was using was “the size of a closet” and that he planned to fight the decision “tooth and nail.”

Wilkie accused the Florida congressman of being “party to” or making “several misleading public statements” regarding the decision to evict, transparency at the VA, and veteran suicides.

The VA secretary claimed that Mast “implied, without evidence,” in a recent “Fox and Friends” interview that the reason the department reclaimed the space was “related to a congressional hearing 5 months ago.” Wilkie explained that the former office space will be used for the hospital’s “veterans’ smoking cessation program.”

Wilkie also claimed that Mast “falsely implied” that he “could not conduct congressional oversight and constituent services” without his office in the VA hospital.

The VA secretary wrote that “on the contrary,” Mast could take care of his constituency and perform congressional oversight from his congressional offices, adding that he was “one of only six members of Congress” with offices in VA hospitals and that  “none of the other 529 members of Congress” are asking for offices like his.

He went on to claim that the Florida congressman “stated, without evidence,” that the reason the VA reclaimed the space “was done to avoid transparency and accountability.”

“To be clear, under this administration, the department is more transparent and accountable than ever before. Since President Trump’s inauguration, the VA became the first hospital system in the nation to post online our wait times, opioid prescription rates, and chief executive travel.”

Wilkie also pointed out that the president had “signed into law the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act and the VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection” to “help protect” the department employees who “expose problems within VA.”

He then said that Mast’s “implication about lack of progress on suicide and mental health flies in the face” of all the steps that Trump has taken to address the issues while in office.

“He is the first and only president to declare suicide prevention a national health priority,” wrote Wilkie. “And you know that under this president, we not only have same-day mental health services, but also the largest mental health budget in history.”

Wilkie also criticized the Thursday press release that Mast sent out claiming that “no other federal agency” has faced so many crises like the VA.

The VA secretary claimed that, “while that was true” of the department under former President Barack Obama, Trump’s VA has “done more in the last two and a half years than previous administrations have in decades” to bring reform to the agency.

“I believe we share the goals of helping veterans and improving VA services,” concluded Wilkie. “But providing veterans and the public at large with inaccurate information in your capacity as a lawmaker undermines your stated message about helping veterans and honoring their service to our great nation.”

Mast’s office has not yet responded to IJR’s request for comment.

What do you think?

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Sandra Jenkins
Member

So where has his budgeted office dollars gone since he is getting office rent free from the VA? Can he not find closet space somewhere else? Maybe they can all bundle the allotted office space monies together and share a bigger closet.
The space is for veterans, not college ball fields, retail office space, Congress members space, etc. It’s for VETERANS!

Bob
Guest
Bob

Well, I did click on Rep Masts name above, and he does make some valid points. Such as why does the VA union have a 2000 sq ft office in that hospital; hardly medical treatment.

Dave Hardesty
Member

Rent the ‘Janitor’s closet’ to him at the going rate of a bed in ICU and use that money for the benefit of those who honorably served our nation rather than those who just talk about it.

Claims he cant do his work without the office? Lets see how much time he spends in that office.

william jackson
Member

retardlican Brian Mast and 5 D-RATs Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Darren Soto, and Stephanie Murphy, (all Floridians), seem to be scamming the system. If they are occupying needed VA space—and are asked to depart so the space can be utilized for veteran benefits—-then get your fat Pelosi’s out—-now! Politicians—-what a bunch of freeloading scumbags—-get the hell out you bunch of pathetic losers!

James
Member

I won’t go in to my recent experiences (from February 2019 to the present day) with the inferior services I am getting through the Lake City (FL) VAMC and from those VAMC’s and CBOC’s I’ve encountered in recent years. I will only say that ON SITE oversight and internal changes in the entire VA Healthcare System ARE desperately needed; adding, my dog receives better care from her veterinarian than I and some I’ve talked to do from the VA. I might suggest hiring AMERICAN, English speaking, LICENSED MD’s – not foreigners/bed pan trainees – would be a step in the… Read more »

Jeff T.
Member

They shouldn’t use VA space for Congressional duties. They can get Congressional offices and leave the VA space for the support of VA administration and staffing.

Allen Zabel
Member

The VA exists for veterans. Not political hacks, to increase their votes.
As a veteran. I see no reason for offices at these facilities.
Besides, if it was as small as a closet? Then his house must be huge.
The office is roughly 8 X 10. Which is the size of my spare bedroom.

Glen Hillebrand
Member

President Trump, Secretary Wilkie: Bravo!!! BRAVO!!!!!

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