Word is former GOP member of Congress Jeff Miller is on the US Department of Veterans Affairs top spot shortlist. A White House official told Reuters that Pres. Donald Trump would be interviewing Miller for the VA secretary post.
Miller, who advised the Trump campaign, has the bona fides as veterans legislation author and once head of the veterans affairs commission in Congress. Opponents and proponents say he’d steer the agency toward increased privatization which would be in line with the Trump administration’s plans. With Navy Real Adm. Ronny Jackson out of the running for alleged misconduct while serving as White House physician, Miller’s name has come up as a likely nominee.
Here’s what you need to know about Jeff Miller:
1. Miller, Being Vetted by the White House, Was Suggested to Trump by Speaker Paul Ryan for VA Post
The Washington Post reported Miller met Wednesday with the Trump administration vetting office, and said that “Miller told people close to the White House that he expects to meet with Trump in coming days.” It was also reported that Speaker Paul Ryan “publicly suggested (Miller) to Trump…”
And Trump himself has said a more politically savvy and experienced secretary may be a better fit for the job overseeing an administration
The VA, established in 1930, provides healthcare, as well as disability compensation, education grants, loans, life insurance, vocational rehab and burial benefits. There are more than 375,000 employees at VA hospitals, medical clinics, local and state benefits offices and all the 135 VA cemeteries. The costs to run the department includes administration and all benefits totaling more than $270 billion in 2017.
The secretary of the VA is a cabinet level position.
2. Miller, a Democrat Until 1997, Began His Political Career as a Florida State Legislator
Born in St. Petersburg, Florida, Miller, 58, earned a degree in journalism from the University of Florida. Miller was a sheriff’s deputy, dabbled in real estate and in 1984, Miller took a job as aide to then-Florida Agriculture Commissioner Doyle Conner, a Democrat. Miller too was a Democrat.
In 1997, Miller switched from Democrat to Republican, ran for and won a seat as a Florida state representative and served from 1998 to 2001. Miller lives in the Florida Panhandle town of Chumuckla. He is married to wife Vicki and has two adult sons, Clint and Scott.
Miller catapulted onto the national political stage when he won the chock-a-block Republican primary and then general election for the Florida House First District seat vacated by then-Republican US House Rep. Joe Scarborough.
Miller would go on to keep that seat for six terms until retiring from the House in 2016.
3. In 15 Years on Capitol Hill, Republican Miller Was Focused on Veterans Affairs & Military Preparedness
While Chairman of House Veterans Affairs Committee, Miller introduced legislation, held hearings and was focused in 2014 on his and other Republicans Protecting America’s Veterans’ campaign to see then-VA head Eric Shinseki ousted after a report on veterans who died waiting for appointments.
Miller filed bills to create a task force to deal with disability backlogs, the 2013 GI tuition bill that would have vets play instate tuition in colleges even if they were from out-of-state and the 2014 VA accountability act where senior VA management could be demoted or fired for poor performance this related directly to the wait times scandal, which Miller called a “national disgrace.”
The $16 billion Veteran’s Access to Care Act was aimed in part to allow vets to seek care from medical centers that were not part of the VA and would allow the VA to “Enter into contracts with such non-VA facilities as may be necessary to furnish hospital care and medical services …”
But it’s the latter that concerns some who worry about plans to increasingly privatize or outsource medical care the VA and believe Miller would be supportive of a path toward that end.
Miller served eight of his 15 years in Congress on the House Intelligence and House Armed Services committees. Miller’s voting record is Republican party line.
4.Reaction to Miller as a Possible VA Nominee is Mixed
The fear for those opposed to Miller is that he’d help propel the agency toward privatization.
Then-Trump campaign adviser Sam Clovis said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in 2016, that the VA’s health-care system is a shambles and that if Trump won the presidency, he’d push for the VA toward privatization, “…to become more of an insurance provider.”
A bipartisan poll in 2105 following the wait times scandal, despite the overwhelming concern about veterans getting appropriate and timely health care, privatization was still not endorsed by vets.
And VoteVets.org says no way to Miller.
A VoteVets.org ad was explained by Iraq War veteran Will Fischer.
“The Koch Brothers are using everything they’ve got to try to push through privatization of veterans health care, which would toss veterans into the for-profit, private system. We’re here to say that veterans are going to fight it, all the way. Our ads make clear that the VA does incredible work, and deserves more support, so it can properly serve all veterans. For those public servants standing up against privatization, we want this to serve as encouragement to keep up the fight. To those who find themselves leaning towards supporting the Trump privatization scheme, we want them to know we’re going to let their constituents know what is happening, so they can hold those politicians accountable.”
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported that many close to Trump are on board with Miller given his advice to the campaign on matters related to veterans. And Concerned Veterans for America has taken its stand.
Acknowledging the issue of privatization is central to the Trump nominee pick and ultimately who is named secretary, Concerned Veterans for America, while not endorsing Miller, is in favor of choice and reform and has encouraged the Trump administration to make choice a priority.
5. After Miller Left Office, He Became a D.C.-Based Healthcare, Defense & Intelligence Lobbyist
Miller works McDermott, Will & Emery as a lobbyist advising “clients in the health care, defense and intelligence industries in areas including lobbying, legislative strategy, government contracting and Congressional investigations, his bio on the firm website reads in part.
“…Jeff is well known by members of the (Trump) Administration and a number of leaders of the various (administration) Departments,” his bio reads. “Jeff has extensive experience advancing Republican legislative initiatives within Congress …”
The Military Times spoke to Miller in 2017 about his return to Washington D.C. as a lobbyist and about Pres. Trump’s plans for the VA.
“I think President Trump is doing exactly what he promised,” said Miller, who worked on Trump’s presidential campaign as an adviser. “He has a plan, he is moving in that direction, and he’s going to follow that. So none of what I’ve seen has been surprising to me.”
“That plan includes promises of significant reforms to VA programs,” it was reported.