On March 28, President Donald Trump fired Dr. David Shulkin, Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA), with the intent to nominate Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, MD, as his replacement. In the interim, Robert Wilkie, U.S. Department of Defense under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, will serve as acting VA secretary.
Shulkin’s termination does not come without controversy. On March 29, Shulkin took to the New York Times to respond to his firing, attributing his ouster to an unwillingness to privatize VA services. In his op-ed piece, “Privatizing the V.A. Will Hurt Veterans,” Shulkin wrote:
“I believe differences in philosophy deserve robust debate, and solutions should be determined based on the merits of the arguments. The advocates within the administration for privatizing V.A. health services, however, reject this approach. They saw me as an obstacle to privatization who had to be removed. That is because I am convinced that privatization is a political issue aimed at rewarding select people and companies with profits, even if it undermines care for veterans.”
Shulkin’s recent tenure was marred in a scandal related to the alleged misuse of public funds for a trip to Europe. He and his wife received state-funded flights for their 10-day trip while improperly receiving gifted tickets to a Wimbledon tennis match.
Jackson is board-certified in emergency medicine and has served as the White House physician since his appointment by George W. Bush in 2006. If confirmed as VA secretary, he will retire from active duty in the U.S. Navy, where he has served since 1995.
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