Veterans groups press Carson ahead of debate

A handful of veterans organizations are pushing Ben Carson to reverse his call to close the Veterans Health Administration ahead of Wednesday's GOP presidential debate.  

Top officials from Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, The American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America, AMVETS, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and the Military Officers Association of America sent an open letter to Carson on Wednesday. 
  
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The groups argue that Carson's push to eliminate the VA's healthcare system "would inevitably endanger the health and well-being of millions of wounded, injured and ill veterans, an outcome that we cannot allow to occur."
 
Carson wrote in a USA Today op-ed earlier this month that his medical background makes him skeptical of the VA and that "at a minimum, the Veterans Health Administration should be eliminated."
 
While the groups said they didn't question that he wanted to help veterans, they criticized his understanding of the VA as "both outdated and inaccurate."
 
"The VA you worked in over three decades ago is dramatically different than the VA of today or even ten years ago," the groups write in the letter to Carson. "That VA no longer exists."
 
They added that Carson's push to create health savings accounts — included in the USA Today op-ed — for veterans would "effectively diminish our nation’s sacred obligation to 'care for him who shall have borne the battle.'"
 
The VA has been the subject of criticism from lawmakers and outside groups in the wake of reports of delays for care and allegations of manipulated data that have raised concerns about systemic problems within the VA. 
 
The veterans groups added Wednesday that while they've also criticized the VA's missteps, "America’s veterans have earned the right to a VA system that provides veteran-centric, high quality, accessible health care." 
 
The groups note that they are willing to meet with Carson, saying that "we invite you to join with us in an effort to strengthen and reform the VA, not destroy it." 
 
The neurosurgeon is currently ranked second in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, according to RealClearPolitics