Allegations against Ronny Jackson question his readiness to lead VA

Jonathan Kaupanger
April 25, 2018 - 10:04 am

Photo by Oliver Contreras/SIPA USA

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“Unprofessional behaviors” is how the 2012 Inspector General report described Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson as he took part in a power struggle over the White House medical unit.  The six-page report by the Navy’s Medical Inspector General found a lack of trust in the leadership and low morale among staff members.

The AP reported on the IG document just hours after Jackson responded with “No there was not,” when asked if there was an inspector general report about the allegation by a journalist. At the time, Jackson was on Capitol Hill in-between meetings with lawmakers.

Staff at The White House Medical Unit described the work environment at the time as “being caught between parents going through a bitter divorce.”  The issue, according to the report, was a power struggle between Jackson and former President Obama’s physician at the time Dr. Jeffrey Kuhlman.  The report suggested replacing both men, however Jackson was given Kuhlman’s job.

Jackson was to face a confirmation hearing this week to be the next Veterans Affairs secretary. Yesterday, both the top republican and democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee announced that the hearing was postponed indefinitely citing “serious allegations” made against Jackson. Later, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) said more than 20 current and retired military personnel had made complaints against Jackson.

“All I can tell you is we didn’t initiate this discussion, this discussion came when we were notified by folds that work with Admiral Jackson,” said Tester to CBS News.

Other allegations against Jackson include improperly handing out drugs and drinking on the job, though Tester clarified that the drug part of the allegations were for sleeping and waking up, not opioids.  “These were doled out on overseas trips where there’s a lot of time zone changes,” said Tester.

On the drunk while on duty charges, Tester explained that it happened while on travel and while he was the physician for the president. “We were told stories where he was repeatedly drunk while on duty where his main job was to take care of the most powerful man in the world,” said Tester while adding, “That’s not acceptable.”

The president is standing by his nominee, adding that it would be his choice to withdraw the nomination. Jackson was disappointed that the confirmation hearing had been postponed but added that he was looking forward to answering everybody’s questions when the hearing is rescheduled.