Retired military officer John F. Russ, a staunch Democratic Party critic, agreed that the president has given veterans fewer choices.
Mr. Russ, who served 22 years in the Army, and voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the primary, said that he is increasingly concerned that his status as a military veteran gives him special political access in the political process. As an example, he pointed to the senator’s 2017 legislation that allowed veterans to keep their open prescription drug benefits.
“My concern is that I’m going to use this job title — a former member of the military — to get things done for veterans and the Democrat administration blocks it,” Mr. Russ said. “They go for the easiest and the least unpopular with a veterans, and they’re not protecting the veterans. They’re blocking it for political reasons, and that’s unfortunate.”
In August, a bill that would have given veterans up to $6,400 more to pay for medical services in 2018 failed to gain Republican support. At the time, White House officials called the bill, which was written by Democrats, a “micromanagement nightmare” for the Office of Management and Budget.
Lawmakers in both parties were frustrated by OMB’s role in the process, and argued that the agency had an entirely proper role in approving or denying the requested spending authority, even though lawmakers had not asked for specific funding from the White House.
Retired Army officer Mark Thomas, a conservative supporter of President Trump, said that the Veterans Affairs bureaucracy has too much involvement in the lives of veteran patients.
“VA is fundamentally broken, but President Trump still has to deal with that and he hasn’t done very well,” said Mr. Thomas, a California Navy veteran and anti-abortion activist. “People need help to get that help. If you can’t find it, you need help.”
He said that the department needs to focus on helping the veterans it currently services — which was a well-documented problem under President Obama. And he said that he was not bothered by the president’s appearance at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix in 2016, when, in order to present a united front, Trump kept his arm around wheelchair-bound Army veteran and emotional supporter Pat Tillman, who died in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan.
“Everybody is free to shoot up the hospital if they don’t want the Trump presence,” Mr. Thomas said. “That’s the reality of it. You don’t take the president of the United States hostage.”