Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin listens to President Trump before signing an Executive Order on Improving Accountability and Whistleblower Protection at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, DC, April 27, 2017.

Photo by Olivier Douliery

VSOs come to Shulkin's defense

February 20, 2018 - 2:10 pm

Veteran service organzations are lining up in support of VA Secretary David Shulkin, who they believe is their strongest advocate against privatizing the Veterans Administration.

Shulkin has come under intense fire - including calls for his resignation - in light of an Inspector General report alleging misuse of funds to pay for a taxpayer-funded trip for the secretary and his wife to London which included comped tickets to Wimbledon.

Shulkin's chief of staff announced last week that she'd retire in light of allegations that she mislead investigators; Shulkin alleges that Vivieca Wright Simpson's email may have been hacked to make it look like she acted inappropriately. 

Shulkin's supporters claim the scandal is a political push to force his resignation because he has resisted privatization.

The American Legion, AMVETS, the Disabled American Veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and VoteVets agree.

"While we are very disappointed in some of the things revealed in the IG report, we still stand strong that David Shulkin has done an amazing job for veterans and the VA. So we would definitely like to see him stay on as Secretary of the VA," Verna Jones, executive director for The American Legion told Connecting Vets Tuesday.

AMVETS executive director Joe Chennelly called on President Trump to give Shulkin "space to do his job."

"VA Secretary Shulkin is learning a tough lesson in politics: If you want to make enemies, try to change something," Chennelly said in a statement, "but he will not be the only one who pays if the President allows the VA to be treated, once again, like a political football that keeps getting punted each time a new VA Secretary is deposed."

Veterans service organizations have stood behind Shulkin, a doctor and former hospital administrator, as the only secretary who's recognized the actual issues veterans face in the health care system.

In a statement, Disabled Veterans of America said that although they don't always agree with Shulkin, they believe he's a "proven advocate for veterans - not special interest groups who openly advocate shrinking and dismantling the VA."

"This is about more than just inapropriate use of funds. This is about privatization," says the American Legion's executive director, Jones. "This is about the other people they want in this position so they can move towards privatization."

VoteVets tweeted out their concern over privatization as well:

The Trump administration has long pushed privatization as a way to address health care issues for the growing veterans population.  Shulkin has agreed that the Choice Program should be extended and funded as a way of offering additional services to veterans, especially those in remote locations, but he's stated publicly that full privatization would never happen on his watch.