On Thursday, Congressman Brian Mast (R-FL), a double-amputee war vet, spoke with Fox News about being kicked out of a West Palm Beach, Florida, VA facility where he had established the first office in a VA facility for a sitting member of Congress.
In 2017, Mast opened the first ever Congressional office inside a VA facility, an action imitated by other congressmen. He had recently confronted VA officials about a shooting and suicide at the West Palm Beach VA.
Fox and Friends Co-Host Brian Kilmeade asked, “What’s your reaction to them kicking you out of your office because of that action?”
Look, I’m hot on this issue. There are 435 representatives sitting in the Capitol, every one of which is saying on a weekly basis they want to affect 22 suicides a day; they want to make the VA a better place for people to get their health care needs; they want to make it a better place. Every one of them should be begging to be in those doors and the VA should be begging them to be in there so we make sure every veteran that walks in there is treated with compassion, they’re treated by competent people, and that the people that are treating them, if they don’t show up there ready to treat them with dignity and respect, that they don’t show up at all. And our job is oversight and if they don’t let us in there to do that then there’s a real problem.
Co-Host Ainsley Earhardt asked, “Do they just want you not asking any questions?” Mast responded:
It’s not just oversight but it’s also service. We’ve opened up over 500 pieces of casework inside of that VA; that’s 500 individual meetings with veterans that maybe couldn’t meet with us in other offices; the work that is being done there; seeing the things that are going right and going wrong on a day-to-day basis; that’s what needs to happen and we need to flip that place upside down in order to change the whole climate of what’s going on there. And if the people in charge aren’t willing to do that then they’re not doing the right thing.
Co-Host Steve Doocy pointed out that after President Trump was elected, the West Palm Beach VA refused to put a picture on the wall of Trump.
Mast replied, “That’s exactly right. They had the picture of the president, the Secretary of the VA on the wall and they wouldn’t change that over after his swearing-in for some time, so we took the picture in there, got it from the administration and said we’re not leaving until you hang this up. But that’s the VA, often limping from crisis to crisis to crisis, and this is what we want to change. Just let us help. Let us be there. Let us put our eyes on all of those veterans; let them know that we love them, that we care about them and that we’re going to be there for them so that we can help change that climate.”
He stated, “They told us that we gotta be out by December and we’re hoping that we can change that. This was under Secretary Stone that made this announcement; we’re hoping that Secretary Wilkie will go out there and make a change …”
He added, “My space is about the size of a desk, and I’m saying that literally. I can sit in there with maybe one other veteran and one other person with them can sit in there; it’s a closet. We’re not taking up substantial place, just a place to meet with them, care for them, work with their needs, help them however we can.”