AMVETS on VA changes: "We don't know if we can trust The White House"

Eric Dehm
March 29, 2018 - 11:13 am

Photo courtesy AMVETS

In the weeks and months prior to the removal of Dr. David Shulkin as VA Secretary, the major Veteran Service Organizations, including American Veterans (AMVETS), made their support of Shulkin. They also expressed their belief that if the White House truly believed a change was necessary, they would like to have input on the process.

To that end, AMVETS Executive Director Joe Chenelly says the President's Chief of Staff promised several VSOs a meeting on the now former secretary's future. 

"I will tell you right now, I don't know if we can trust the White House," Chenelly said during an appearance on the Morning Briefing radio show. "I know that's a pretty serious thing to say, but about a month ago as I talked about on the show here, right after (the show) we met with General John Kelly and expressed our support for Dr. Shulkin... General Kelly at that time said he was going to set up a meeting in two weeks with the president. That was four weeks ago."

Despite concerns over the removal of Dr. Shulkin, the meeting that never happened. Even with the lack of VSO input on the new nominee, Chenelly says he is hopeful that Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson is the right man for the job. Though he is quick to point out that little is known about the Admiral beyond his stellar reputation as a physician, praised by Presidents Obama and Trump.

One thing that is known is he does not have experience overseeing any major medical facilities, let alone something the size of the VA, which employs over 300,000 personnel. To put that in context, there are approximately 326,000 sailors currently serving on active duty in the entire US Navy. 

While he says he will wait to pass judgement on the President's nominee, Chenelly is very open on where he, and his organization, stand on the removal of Shulkin and the recent continuous turnover at the top of the department. He says he doesn't see how removing the man who was until very recently, held up as an example of the administration's biggest success is a positive for the President. 

"He had a great first year as secretary," Chenelly said. "Which meant that the president had a great first year on veteran's issues. And really last night, when this came down and the tweet came out, that momentum stopped. Because now we're going to need to focus on who's the next leader and we're going to be looking at the sixth new leader in four years."

You can hear the full interview with Chenelly below by clicking Play to stream now or clicking Share and selecting Download from the available options.