Vet groups suing Trump Administration

Jonathan Kaupanger
May 02, 2018 - 11:22 am

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Well, another day means another problem at VA. This time, veterans in Arizona, DC and veterans group VoteVets and Democracy Forward, have filed a lawsuit stating that the person currently in the roll of acting VA secretary is there illegally.

The lawsuit states that the Trump administration broke the law by making Robert Wilkie the acting head of VA. The court is being asked to declare that Wilkie is not the lawful acting secretary and wants an injunction barring him from acting in the roll.

“Robert Wilkie never had hearings to examine his views of veterans’ care, or how he envisions the VA working,” said VoteVets Director of Government Relations and Iraq War veteran Will Fischer. “This flies in the face of the entire system of checks and balances that federal statutes and our Constitution call for. By bypassing Deputy Secretary Bowman, and illegally moving someone from another department over to the VA to act as interim secretary, we believe that the Trump administration is trying to get a head start on its privatization efforts for the department, before hearings on a new secretary even happen.  That cannot stand.”

The law in question is the Federal Reform Vacancies Act (FRVA).  It states that “an officer of an Executive agency,” in this case Veterans Affairs, “whose appointment to office is required to be made by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, dies, resigns or is otherwise unable to perform the functions and duties of the office,” and yes, there is still is the question on whether or not the former secretary, David Shulkin, resigned or was fired.

The law continues, “The first assistant to the office of such officer shall perform the functions and duties of the office temporarily in an acting capacity subject to the time limitations.”  The VA’s deputy secretary is Thomas Bowman and has been described by White House officials as being an obstructionist to the president’s plans to privatize VA’s healthcare. 

The reason behind FRVA is to stop administrations from relying on acting employees for politically appointed positions and bypassing Senate approval.  “The laws governing how political vacancies are filled and the limits on when a president can bypass Congress to unilaterally hand-pick an appointee are fundamental to how our government works,” said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy.  “President Trump can’t ignore federal law just because he wants to privatize VA healthcare to appease his wealthy donors.”