- President Trump has ousted Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin.
- Shulkin will be replaced by Adm. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician.
- Once considered Trump’s least controversial Cabinet pick, Shulkin has been involved in a number of scandals that hurt his image and standing within the administration.
- There have been reports the VA work environment has become “toxic” because of a power struggle and arguments between senior staff.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday ousted Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, once considered the least controversial member of his Cabinet, in yet another Cabinet shakeup.
“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 on Wednesday evening. “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!”
Jackson, currently the White House physician, delivered a glowing televised assessment of Trump’s medical health in January. He began his active duty naval service in 1995 and served alongside US Marines in Iraq in 2005 as an emergency-medicine physician.
Wilkie, who will serve as acting secretary, is currently the undersecretary of defence for personnel and readiness.
A former Obama administration official, Shulkin had years of experience in the VA and was the only Cabinet member unanimously confirmed by Congress.
He was working toward carrying out Trump’s reform project to shift more healthcare for veterans to government-subsidized private-sector doctors. He handed the president a number of bipartisan victories in his first year in office.
But despite his strong start, the end of his tenure was racked by a number of scandals. An inspector general investigation in February showed that he used $US122,000 of taxpayer money on a trip to Europe with his wife and that he improperly accepted tickets to the Wimbledon tennis tournament.
The Washington Post also reported that Shulkin had argued with White House aides in an attempt to get his wife to meet Britain’s Prince Harry during his trip to the Invictus Games in Canada last September, though Shulkin denied that allegation.
Almost immediately, after the revelations, Shulkin’s rivals within the department used the findings to justify plotting his ouster. Soon, the department was rife with conflict and infighting over how to carry out the president’s reforms, and Shulkin went on the defensive.
He reportedly canceled meetings with Trump appointees after a deputy tried to oust him by appealing directly to lawmakers and the White House to demand Shulkin’s firing.
Shulkin also revoked access for people he believed tried to oust him from his office, and argued for the right to fire people he believes are “obstacles to further changes.”
The situation had gotten so bad that Shulkin recently posted an armed guard outside his office.
The internal conflict has created a “toxic” work environment. “Things have come to a grinding halt” a senior manager told The Washington Post. “Nobody trusts each other.”
On top of the chaos at the VA, Shulkin and his team had to deal with weeks of media reports that he was going to be the next Cabinet official to be axed. White House officials told Reuters on Wednesday that Shulkin had become a distraction due to constant speculation about his future.
Jackson was an unexpected choice to lead the VA. Other names floated to replace Shulkin included Energy Secretary Rick Perry and “Fox & Friends” correspondent Pete Hegseth.
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