President Trump announced in a tweet Wednesday that his Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin was out, and being replaced by his White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson.
‘I am pleased to announce that I intend to nominate highly respected Admiral Ronny L. Jackson, MD, as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs,’ Trump tweeted Wednesday evening. ‘In the interim, Hon. Robert Wilkie of DOD will serve as Acting Secretary. I am thankful for Dr. David Shulkin’s service to our country and to our GREAT VETERANS!’
Jackson is the WHite House physician who gave Trump a clean bill of health in January, declaring he had ‘incredible genes’.
For days Shulkin looked to be on the chopping block as the president viewed the controversies surrounding the VA secretary, a holdover from the Obama administration, as a distraction.
In February the VA’s internal watchdog issued a report that found that Shulkin had improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets.
Additionally, the probe found that Shulkin’s staff had doctored emails to justify the secretary’s wife traveling with him to Europe on the taxpayer dime.
Hired: The doctor who gave Trump a clean bill of health, Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, will take over Veterans Affairs
Twitter move: Trump use dhis favroite medium to dispense with David Shulkin
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin (pictured) may be booted from his job as early as this week, after travel controversies have put him in the cross-hairs of President Trump, who views his scandals as a distraction
The VA’s internal watchdog found Secretary David Shulkin (pictured) had improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets and his staff had doctored emails to justify his wife traveling to Europe with him at taxpayer expense
Speculation over Shulkin’s fate has ramped up in recent weeks following a blistering report by VA’s internal watchdog in February that found he had improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets and his staff had doctored emails to justify his wife traveling to Europe with him at taxpayer expense.
Earlier this month, two people familiar with the White House discussions told the AP that Trump increasingly viewed Shulkin as a distraction as the White House floated the names of possible candidates to replace him, including conservative Fox & Friends contributor Pete Hegseth.
A separate VA watchdog investigation, due out in the coming weeks, is also looking into a complaint that Shulkin asked his security detail to accompany him to a Home Depot store and cart furniture items, according to two people familiar with the allegation who requested anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.
One person familiar with the White House discussions told the AP on Sunday that the White House was looking closely at roughly half a dozen candidates to head the VA, the government’s second-largest department with 370,000 employees.
Among the candidates being vetted include Hegseth, a former military officer and former CEO of the conservative Concerned Veterans for America; former Rep. Jeff Miller, who had been chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee; retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg; Toby Cosgrove, a former president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic; and Leo Mackay Jr., a former VA deputy secretary who is now senior vice president at Lockheed Martin Corp.
In the event of Shulkin’s departure, deputy VA secretary Tom Bowman would serve as acting head of the VA until a nominee is confirmed by the Senate.
Bowman has also come under criticism at the White House for being too moderate to push Trump’s agenda of fixing veterans’ care.
During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly pledged to fix the VA by expanding access to private doctors and firing bad employees, criticizing the department as ‘the most corrupt.’
Last year, Trump promised to triple the number of veterans ‘seeing the doctor of their choice.’
But a Trump administration plan to expand the Veterans Choice program remains in limbo after lawmakers declined last week to include it in a massive spending bill.
In response to the ethics issues, Shulkin has denied wrongdoing and complained about internal drama at the agency that has made it difficult for him to push through VA improvements, citing a half dozen or so political appointees there who were rebelling against him.
But Kelly, the White House chief of staff, recently made it clear to Shulkin that he had become weary of the VA secretary’s tendency to run to the media to voice complaints and claim a White House mandate that he did not fully have, according to a person familiar with the conversations who wasn’t authorized to discuss them publicly and insisted on anonymity.
The department provides medical care and other benefits to 9 million military veterans in more than 1,700 health facilities around the U.S.