President Trump on Wednesday fired VA Sec. David Shulkin and nominated White House physician Admiral Ronny Jackson to replace him.
“Secretary Shulkin made significant headway in reforming the department, but ultimately became a distraction from the important task of improving healthcare for our veterans,” said Dan Caldwell, head of the group Concerned Veterans for America.
Caldwell reacted to Shulkin’s firing by asking the White House to continue looking for ways to improve its treatment of veterans.
“We are hopeful that this change will end the recent distractions at the VA and put the focus back on advancing policy that will ensure veterans get the healthcare and the benefits they have earned,” said Caldwell. “We look forward to continuing partnering with the White House, Congress, and the future VA Secretary to advance policy that will improve the well-being of our veterans.”
Shulkin believes his dismissal is related to his opposition to the idea of privatizing health care at the VA. “I was not against reforming VA, but I was against privatization,” Shulkin said during an interview with NPR, adding that he is “convinced that privatization is a political issue aimed at rewarding select people and companies with profits, even if it undermines care for veterans.”
Shulkin reacted to his dismissal with an angry op-ed published in The New York Times.
“As I prepare to leave government, I am struck by a recurring thought: It should not be this hard to serve your country,” he wrote, describing the recent environment in Washington as “toxic, chaotic, disrespectful, and subversive” to the point that doing his job was “impossible.”
Shulkin described his work at the VA as a “professional honor,” but promised to “continue to speak out against those who seek to harm the VA by putting their personal agendas in front of the well-being of our veterans.”
Shulkin, once among Trump’s favorite cabinet members, has worked in the White House since 2013. His reputation plummeted a few months ago when a report from the department’s IG accused him of misusing taxpayer dollars during a trip to Europe in 2017.
“I have been falsely accused of things by people who want me out of the way,” wrote Shulkin. “But despite these politically-backed attacks on me and my family’s character, I am proud of my record and know that I acted with the utmost integrity. Unfortunately, none of that mattered.”