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President Trump's nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs has not been confirmed yet, but two of the executive orders the president signed this week could have a direct effect on the department and also the veterans it serves, as NPR's Quil Lawrence reports.
QUIL LAWRENCE, BYLINE: As promised, Donald Trump has moved to dismantle the Affordable Care Act - Obamacare. That's a concern for those who might be left without health insurance and for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which may have to pick up some of the slack.
SENIOR POLICY RESEARCHER CARRIE FARMER: Most veterans have more than one source of health insurance.
LAWRENCE: Carrie Farmer at the RAND Corporation researches health policy. She says 3 million vets who are enrolled in the VA usually get their health care elsewhere, from their employer or maybe from Obamacare exchanges. If those options go away, some of those 3 million veterans will move on to the VA, she says.
FARMER: I would expect that the number of veterans using VA health care will increase, which will only provide a further challenge for VA to provide timely and accessible care.
LAWRENCE: That would be an unwelcome strain on an overtaxed system, she says. Speaking of strain, the president also signed a federal hiring freeze this week. Yesterday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer specifically said that applies to the VA, which he called a broken system.
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SEAN SPICER: The VA in particular, if you look at the problems that have plagued people, hiring more people isn't the answer, it's hiring the right people.
LAWRENCE: Just hours later, the acting secretary of the VA seemed to contradict the White House. He said for public safety, the department intends to exempt anyone it deems necessary from the hiring freeze. Trump's nominee to lead the VA, Dr. David Shulkin, has also stressed the urgent need to hire more caregivers. He's been running VA health care since 2015. Last fall, he told NPR...
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DAVID SHULKIN: We have 45,000 job openings, that's too many. I need to fill every one of those openings in order to make sure that we're doing the very best for veterans.
LAWRENCE: Shulkin said the VA performs as well or better than private health care systems, but he said that long before he was asked to join the Trump administration. Quil Lawrence, NPR News.
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