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Trump Fires VA Secretary, Nominates White House Doctor

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin speaks at a news conference in Washington on March 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON — President Trump announced another cabinet shift on Twitter today in an anticipated move to dump Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin.

The move came as Shulkin met today with representatives from major veterans organizations, groups that have stood behind the VA secretary as his footing with Trump got shakier.

In Shulkin’s place, Trump nominated the White House doctor who elaborated on the president’s physical and mental health status in a January press conference.

“I am pleased to announce that I intend to nominate highly respected Admiral Ronny L. Jackson, MD, as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs,” Trump tweeted this afternoon. “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!”

Shulkin, who ran the Veterans Health Administration as under secretary of the VA in the Obama administration, was unanimously confirmed to his post in February 2017.

Rumors of Shulkin’s imminent ouster had been floating around for weeks. Asked Monday if Trump planned on firing Shulkin in person or through social media, deputy press secretary Raj Shah responded, “I have no personnel announcements to make at this time.”

“The struggle at the Veterans Administration is about Trump’s desire to privatize the VA and his belief that Secretary David Shulkin is not moving fast enough in that direction,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said Sunday. “The veterans organizations, representing millions of those who put their lives on the line to defend us, want us to strengthen the VA, not dismember it. The Senate Veterans Committee, on which I serve, must stand with the veterans of our country and oppose all efforts to privatize the VA.”

Vietnam Veterans of America said in a March 16 statement that they needed Shulkin’s “firm stance to protect the VA from those who would like to see it handed over to the for-profit, private-sector health systems.”

“Secretary Shulkin understands that veterans would be lost in the private sector, and he knows that President Trump’s commitment to caring for our nation’s veterans is paramount,” said VVA national president John Rowan. “We want to see
Secretary Shulkin finish the revitalization of the VA that was ordered by President Trump.”

At a March 15 House hearing, Shulkin told lawmakers that he opposes privatization as “you can’t take the 9.1 million veterans getting care in the VA system — 60 percent of whom carry a mental health issue — and release them into the general public.”

“It simply couldn’t work by turning on a switch and privatizing the system,” he added.

Jackson was appointed White House doctor by President Obama in 2013 and was kept by Trump during the transition. He was nominated to the rank of rear admiral five days ago.