By Michelle Conlin
RENO, Nevada (Reuters) - Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner for the 2016 presidential race, said on Thursday she opposes blanket privatization of military veterans' healthcare but realizes that vets need choices.
In her first substantive comments on the campaign trail about veterans' affairs, Clinton vowed to win a better deal for vets and protect their education funding benefits.
She told a campaign event at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Reno, Nevada, that private medicine cannot compete with the Department of Veterans Affairs' expertise in post-traumatic stress disorders, traumatic brain injury and prosthetics.
"We have learned that privatization and outsourcing is not a magic solution for anything, let alone when it comes to the unique obligations we have to our vets, so I do oppose blanket privatization proposals," she said.
Even so, the former secretary of state suggested there was a role for private health care in some areas of veterans' treatment.
"I do believe choice should be part of the solution and if we let the VA work more with communities while preserving what it does best, serving veterans and their unique needs, perhaps we can get better care faster to more vets."
Jeb Bush, who earlier this week formally announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination, has called for the partial privatization of veterans' healthcare through a voucher system.
Clinton vowed that if elected president in the November 2016 elections to protect the "Post 9/11 GI Bill" that provides
college tuition fees and a monthly housing allowance to vets who served in Iraq and Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001.
"I will guarantee as president the Post 9/11 GI bill will be there for future generations, no questions asked. I will resist, I will veto any effort to reduce it or roll it back, as some have suggested," she said.
Clinton promised to protect veterans against predatory lending, forgive student loans for medical personnel in the VA system and provide a $1,500 tax credit to businesses for every vet apprentice they hire.
(Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Leslie Adler)