Even as the midterm elections have just passed and the political messages were fired from one corner of the political spectrum to the other between Democrats and Republicans, the mainstream media did not cover a major Obama-era veteran scandal that the Trump administration must now fix. Shadow abuse by the hands of unaccountable bureaucrats within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) against veteran entrepreneurs must be recognized and remedied.
Trump has been off to a fast start solving issues at the VA and can be compared to a fireman trying to put out multiple fires at once while trying to prevent the flames of scandal from pervading throughout different arms of the troubled agency.
After hitting the two biggest issues head-on, workforce accountability and health care waitlists, through the VA Accountability Act and VA Mission Act, respectfully, he has a third issue that requires his time and focus. Veteran small business owners or veteran entrepreneurs who have been contracted by the VA have oftentimes performed work, not been paid, and then forced into a position where they are unable to receive fair due process to resolve their disputes with the VA.
Veteran entrepreneurs are being taken advantage of by the VA and then mistreated again because the rules allow the VA to do so. It is ironic and unfair.
The president’s style of management and commitment to veterans is uniquely suited to fixing this problem. Following our co-author’s report on veteran entrepreneur abuse, Trump donated his salary to the Small Business Administration (SBA) to support veteran business owners.
This generous gift from the president, coupled with his follow-through on campaign promises for reforms to improve the VA workforce and health care access, shows there is hope that these Obama-era problems can finally be addressed for veterans.
We recommend a two-tiered approach to solving the problem of the VA abusing veteran entrepreneurs.
Firstly, we applaud the president for continuing to invest in veteran small businesses. The Emerging Leaders Initiative at SBA will provide training and resources to build small businesses among veteran entrepreneurs so that the American dream can be achieved for so many veterans wishing to do so much more with the value of their military experience and leadership. As a result, veteran entrepreneurs become job creators for other veterans.
Secondly, the president should issue a directive to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to cooperate with the SBA Advisory Committee on Veteran Business Affairs to investigate and identify how veteran entrepreneurs have been abused by the VA.
The independent investigation can consider the many recommendations made by veteran advocates, including the establishment of an ombudsman position at the VA or SBA. The ombudsman would serve as an independent voice for these veteran entrepreneurs when they experience conflicts with the VA bureaucrats who have incredible power over them.
Dr. Eric Hannel, the former congressional director for the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Investigations, has in-depth experience looking into these cases and has recently reported the systemic problem.
Hannel goes on to report that one particular veteran entrepreneur had his software essentially seized by the VA and then was forced into the horribly unfair resolution process where the VA bullies these voiceless veterans into either hiring lawyers to spend their way into bankruptcy fighting an unfair system or simply “taking it” and being underpaid or not paid for valuable services rendered.
How can a veteran who is providing services to the VA in order to comply with congressional statute be taken advantage of when he is trying to fix the very agency that exists to support him? These are the fables of the Obama era, where the VA looks more like a jobs program than a high-speed, do-no-harm mission.
We are encouraged by Trump’s approach of putting the veterans first and not falling into the same old, same old veteran community establishment in Washington with its list of failed reforms ideas, which tend to include more funding for the failed agency without meaningful reform and endless union concessions to the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the union that was opposed to the VA Accountability Act and lost in a showdown with the president when it refused to support workforce reforms even after veterans died in Phoenix waiting for health care in the biggest Obama-era VA scandal of the decade.
Trump is reforming the VA, and we recommend he continues to focus on the agency — with an eye to protecting veteran entrepreneurs — and charge Wilkie to resolve immediate abuses and commit to uncovering the abuses that his predecessors allowed to become epidemic. American veterans stand behind Trump as he leads unprecedented reforms in the VA and seeks to correct the role of the VA within the overlapping veteran entrepreneur mission with SBA.
The president is protecting our great veterans from abuse and ensuring they receive the respect and benefits they earned defending our country.
Roger Stone is a Republican political consultant and editor of Stonezone.com who has been an adviser to multiple U.S. presidents and expert on American Politics, and author of Stone’s Rules.
Christopher Neiweem is an Iraq War Veteran, Veteran Entrepreneur and Founder of Neiweem Group, he has testified in front of Congress numerous times as an expert on defense and veterans policy in both the House and Senate and frequently appears on Fox News Channel (FNC) and CNN providing commentary on politics and foreign policy.
Please note: This is a commentary piece. The views and opinions expressed within it are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of IJR.