Trump replaces embattled Veterans Affairs secretary with White House physician
Shulkin, who served as undersecretary in charge of the veterans’ health system during the Obama administration, clashed with Trump political appointees who surrounded him at the VA.
by Jonathan Allen and Ali Vitali
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump ousted Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin Wednesday, announcing his intent to nominate the White House physician, Admiral Ronny Jackson, in Shulkin's place and ending weeks of speculation about when the embattled cabinet official would leave the administration.
I am pleased to announce that I intend to nominate highly respected Admiral Ronny L. Jackson, MD, as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2018
....In the interim, Hon. Robert Wilkie of DOD will serve as Acting Secretary. I am thankful for Dr. David Shulkin’s service to our country and to our GREAT VETERANS!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2018
Shulkin, who served as undersecretary in charge of the veterans’ health system during the Obama administration, clashed with Trump political appointees who surrounded him at the VA. Some of the tension arose from a central policy dispute: The Trump appointees, both within the VA and at the White House, want to see the VA transition to subsidizing private health care for veterans, while Shulkin resisted those efforts.
But the fight had become increasingly personal, particularly in the wake of an inspector general’s report in February that found taxpayers had picked up the tab for Shulkin’s wife accompanying him on a European business trip. That provided ammunition to Shulkin’s foes, and, because he didn’t trust the Trump-appointed communications staff around him, he retained his own public-relations counsel.
Shulkin’s camp came to believe that Trump political appointees were trying to get him fired, according to reports. He sought White House permission to dismiss them, telling the New York Times earlier this month that he had secured that authority from Trump and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.