Sr. VA executive who tried to oust Shulkin is on "extended vacation"

Jonathan Kaupanger
March 09, 2018 - 1:24 pm

Photo by Oliver Contreras/SIPA USA

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It looks like heads are starting to roll at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The first person out the door is VA’s assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs, who was part of a recent attempt to have VA Secretary David Shulkin fired.

“I made it clear that there’s only one agenda in the department and that is to get back on track,” said Shulkin recently. “Anybody who doesn’t want to do that doesn’t belong in the VA.” And now, John Ullyot has been placed on extended vacation, according to sources inside the VA. 

According to reports, Shulkin has cut contact with top VA officials and even has an armed guard at the door to his office. One senior manager told The Washington Post that, “Things have come to a grinding halt. It’s killing the agency. Nobody trusts each other.”  The newspaper also reported that Ullyot along with senior VA officials Brooks Tucker and Jake Leinenkugel have held regular meetings to plot how to get rid of Shulkin.

This in-house drama has been going on for a while. Connecting Vets reported on the basics, you can read about some of the main players here.  It’s has been widely reported that the main policy differences between the two VA camps is all about privatizing veteran care. 

The shenanigans at Veterans Affairs became public last month after the release of Inspector General’s report on Shulkin’s trip to Europe. It was discovered that Shulkin improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets while on the trip. After the report was made public, Shulkin went on the offensive, but Ullyot, along with VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour, did what they could to block the secretary’s access to the press.

Then, according to USA Today, while Shulkin was testifying at the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, both Ullyot and Cashour asked lawmakers to call the White House to demand Shulkin’s removal. Both Cashour and Ullyot deny this happened.

Shulkin has stated that he wants to get back to business, “I’m not spending my time looking for subversion or doing investigation,” he said to Connecting Vets last week. “But when it becomes clear to me that there are people that are pursuing different agendas then I’m going to address them.”

The VA drama isn’t over yet. Another IG report is expected to be released any day now, this time on how Shulkin has supposedly been using his security detail for personal issues. According to a VA employee who has information on the report, “That’s going to be a motherfucking doozie.  He [Shulkin] should stop acting like a CEO and start acting like a federal employee.”

VA wasn’t immediately available for comment when we reached out to them about this story.