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The Trump administration is requiring nominees for non-partisan judge positions inside the Department of Veterans Affairs to reveal their party affiliation. And only nominees who vote Republican are getting through the vetting process.
According to the Washington Post, the White House is not only demanding judges reveal their party identification, but it's also asking for other evidence of political leanings, including social media links, speeches and radio appearances, and opinion pieces.
"The rejected applicants are three Democrats and an independent," according to the Post. "Of the four accepted by the White House and sworn in last week, three are Republicans, and one has no party affiliation but has voted in GOP primaries, according to documents and interviews."
New VA judges are desperately needed in order to reduce the large backlog of disability claims that veterans have filed.
The rejected Democratic judges were given no reason for being denied the positions.
Historically, the VA review board has been run in a purely non-partisan fashion. "During my tenure, the White House approval was considered pro forma," Anthony Principi told the Post. He led the Veterans Affairs appeals system during George W. Bush's first term.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has come up with a rather extraordinary justification for blackballing judges who don't vote Republican.
According to the VA spokesman, the new process of essentially blocking Democratic judges was put in place because in 2016 two VA judges were discovered to have sent racist and sexist emails.
So, to supposedly fix that problem, the Trump administration is only accepting Republicans? Because it's so concerned about racist and sexist behavior?
That doesn't add up.
It's all part of a larger Trump trend of installing loyalists throughout the government. Specifically within the VA, the Post reports that longtime employees have faced transfers or reassignments because they weren't sufficiently loyal to Trump's agenda, which revolves around trying to privatize the VA.
Earlier this year, ProPublica revealed that three Trump Mar-a-Lago cronies with no experience in government or the military were secretly exerting stunning influence over the VA. And they're doing it without any public accountability.
Months prior, the New York Times documented the "chaos" that has engulfed the VA under Trump, and particularly its medical system. As he has "plunged the department into turmoil," doctors are burning out and veterans are being left behind.
This came after Trump fired VA Secretary David Shulkin via Twitter, and then tried to install his White House doctor, Ronny Jackson, into the top VA leadership role. But that turned into a spectacular failure.
Trump seems determined the wreck the VA.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.