"Does it matter?" HillVets sounds off on Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson

Jake Hughes
April 10, 2018 - 11:06 am

(Photo by Xinhua/Sipa USA)

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The past few weeks have been a bit tumultuous for the VA. With the recent firing of Dr. David Shulkin, questions have arisen about the future of the department, as well as its interim leadership. 

Traditionally, when a VA secretary is removed, the deputy secretary takes over, which would be Thomas Bowman in this case. However, this time, the Trump administration has pulled Robert Wilke, the under secretary of defense personnel and readiness, to be acting director of the VA.

"I generally think this is not without cause," says HillVets founder and CEO Justin Brown. "Tom Bowman was the staff director for the majority of Republicans on the Senate VA committee." This means that Deputy Director Bowman was likely more aligned with VA Committee chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson, who holds a more moderate approach to the issue of privatization of the VA. "I think you can connect the dots to the fact that there are two 'camps' on this issue." Justin also says that there is speculation that part of the reason former secretary Shulkin was fired was because of his moderate stance on privatization.

In addition to naming an acting VA secretary, President Trump has also nominated Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson as new secretary of the VA. Rear Adm. Jackson is the president's personal physician, a position he has held since the George W. Bush administration. Justin Brown says the problem with Rear Adm. Jackson is one of scope. "You look at all the past generals and admirals who have served (as secretary of the VA), they all had experience running massive organizations."

The VA currently employs over 300,000 people. Jackson's largest command was a trauma and surgery unit in Iraq. "It matters because there is that problem of scope. The VA secretary must track multiple issues at once, from budget to healthcare, benefits, the national cemetery system, and more." Within the VA system are hundreds of hospitals, national cemeteries, community outreach centers and other branches.

It remains to be seen if Jackson will be confirmed by the Senate during his hearings, which are scheduled to start by the end of this month, or the beginning of May.