WASHINGTON — As he campaigns for a second term, President Trump brags about few things more consistently than his record on veterans affairs. Among his signature lines: “No one has done more for veterans than me.”
But nearly four years into his promises to fix systemic problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, charges of sexism, ineptitude and other flaws remain.
Mr. Trump’s signature plan to expand veteran access to health care outside the department’s own health care centers has been hobbled by the coronavirus pandemic.
His secretary of veterans affairs, Robert L. Wilkie, has been ensnared in an investigation into whether he used his authority to discredit a female veteran who said she was assaulted at a veterans health center in Washington, D.C. Complaints of harassment at veteran’s centers by female veterans remains high.
Black workers recently accused leaders of the Kansas City V.A. of fostering a culture of racism. And as calls from Black veterans and active-duty members of the armed forces to remove the names of Confederate officers from military bases have grown louder, Mr. Wilkie’s own history of insensitive remarks have resurfaced, including those describing the president of the confederacy, Jefferson Davis, as a victim of Northern aggression. He also gave a vigorous defense of Nazi headstones at veterans cemeteries before bowing to pressure to remove them.
While some of Mr. Trump’s promises to ferret out corruption at the department have come to pass, other forms have taken root, including at a new office formed to protect whistle-blowers, which the inspector general determined often found ways to retaliate against them.