White House physician named new VA Secretary

The latest in a string of White House shake-ups hits the VA

Matt Saintsing
March 28, 2018 - 5:51 pm

(Photo by Oliver Contreras/SIPA USA)

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After weeks of rumors, it's official. Department of Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is out, and President Donald Trump announced Wednesday afternoon he will nominate Admiral Dr. Ronny Jackson, who currently serves as the White House physican, as the new VA chief. 

In a tweet, the president announced the newest White House staff shake up.

Shulkin has felt the full force of allegations that he misused official government funds. And some federal lawmakers, such as Marine Corps veteran Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) recently called for Shulkin to be fired.

Jackson, 50, who is an active duty Navy doctor, looks like he'll be promoted to civilian as he prepares to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, the second largest federal agency with a budget of over $200 dollars and over 350,000 employees. 

He'll need to be confirmed by the Senate and until that happens Trump said that Robert Wilkie, the Defense Department's undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, will serve as acting secretary. 

Shulkin's ouster as VA chief is a complete 180 degree reversal of luck. He had been held in high regard across Washington and enjoyed rare bipartisan support. The White House this week insisted that Shulkin had Trump's full confidence. Trump even joked last year that one of his favorite phrases, "you're fired," would be spared on Shulkin. 

"We'll never have to use those words on our David. We will never use those words on you. That's for sure," the president said of Shulkin last June.

But that changed this year when Shulkin became the subject of a damning report from the department's inspector general that found serious government abuses by him and other senior VA officials during a trip to Europe last year. Among the allegations was that Shulkin and his wife had improperly aquired Wimbledon tickets and used VA resources to arrange sight-seeing excursions during his official trip to Denmark and England last summer. 

Although Shulkin has repaid the money himself, some in the White House and VA used this opportunity to remove him. 

Shulkin joines the growing ranks of former senior administration officials such as Secretary of state Rex Tillerson, former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and soon-to-be-exiting national security advisor H.R. McMaster to have their professional fates announced by the president via twitter.