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Former VA Secretary Shulkin unleashes, calls DC ‘toxic, ugly’ in farewell Op-Ed piece

U.S. Sec. of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin (Roberto Koltun/Miami Herald/TNS)
March 29, 2018

Former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, who was last night fired by President Donald Trump, penned an opinion piece for The New York Times, titled “Privatizing the V.A. will hurt veterans,” in which he calls Washington “toxic” and “ugly,” and claims: “It should not be this hard to serve your country.”

President Trump tweeted Wednesday that he is replacing Shulkin with Adm. Ronny Jackson, M.D., who is currently the White House doctor. The Hon. Robert Wilkie of the Defense Department will serve as Acting Secretary. It had been rumored for weeks that Shulkin was on thin ice over using taxpayer dollars to partially to fund a vacation to Europe for his wife, slow progress and intense VA infighting.

In his opinion piece for the Times, Shulkin wrote, in part:

Unfortunately, the department has become entangled in a brutal power struggle, with some political appointees choosing to promote their agendas instead of what’s best for veterans. These individuals, who seek to privatize veteran health care as an alternative to government-run V.A. care, unfortunately fail to engage in realistic plans regarding who will care for the more than 9 million veterans who rely on the department for life-sustaining care.

I have fought to stand up for this great department and all that it embodies. In recent months, though, the environment in Washington has turned so toxic, chaotic, disrespectful and subversive that it became impossible for me to accomplish the important work that our veterans need and deserve. I can assure you that I will continue to speak out against those who seek to harm the V.A. by putting their personal agendas in front of the well-being of our veterans.

As many of you know, I am a physician, not a politician. I came to government with an understanding that Washington can be ugly, but I assumed that I could avoid all of the ugliness by staying true to my values. I have been falsely accused of things by people who wanted me out of the way. But despite these politically-based 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.

As I prepare to leave government, I am struck by a recurring thought: It should not be this hard to serve your country.

Shulkin was the ninth U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs. He was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate after being nominated by Trump and after having served as the Undersecretary of Veterans Affairs for Health from 2015 until 2017, during the Obama Administration.

The VA has been under constant and widespread criticism over the past decade for having close to a $200 billion annual budget but failing to do things such as modernize its technology and workflow, address modern veteran needs and stop widespread veteran suicide.

It had also been rumored that Trump was considering current Energy Secretary and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and also Fox News host and former CEO of Concerned Veterans for America Pete Hegseth, for VA Secretary.