Funny how the timing of things works out sometimes, isn’t it? Just yesterday I was on the Ed Morrissey show and one of the topics we covered was why it’s been taking so long for Trump to nominate someone to the VA, along with who we might like to see. That question was answered for us during the President Elect’s press conference today and the name he put forward is that of current Under Secretary for Health at the VA (and Obama appointee) David Shulkin. Oddly enough, that’s one of the names that came up during the show yesterday and I didn’t have much to say about it at the time because the possibility really hadn’t crossed my mind.
Now that there’s been a bit more time to digest it I’m left wondering what Trump was thinking. There are so many endemic problems at the VA right now that it doesn’t seem like promoting part of the current bureaucratic machinery to the top is going to fix things. Just yesterday I was talking about the latest scandal at the agency where even more taxpayer money was wasted through either incompetence or corruption. What’s needed is somebody from the outside who has a keen sense of the nation’s responsibility to our veterans and a fresh approach. This slot, perhaps more than all the others, truly is crying out for a new broom to sweep clean. Instead we have Shulkin.
You can read his background bio here at the department website, but we already have some history to draw on. During the earlier days of the many, many scandals engulfing the agency, Shulkin was brought in to testify on the Hill and it really didn’t go very well. As the Daily Caller reported at the time, the VA still had criminals working there who seemed to be impossible to fire. Under questioning, Shulkin first claimed that the offending parties had been dismissed but then had to be reminded by an aide that this wasn’t the case at all.
Department of Veterans Affairs Under Secretary David J. Shulkin gave false information to Congress Tuesday, claiming that a Daily Caller News Foundation post was wrong, only to have department officials be forced to admit shortly afterwards that the story was accurate.
TheDCNF exclusively reported in March that Elizabeth Rivera was reinstated to her VA job, thanks to union rules after she got out of jail on an armed robbery charge and subsequent criminal conviction.
To compound matters, the Under Secretary was then asked about another personnel problem of a similar nature and made the precise same mistake yet again.
Also on Tuesday, Shulkin told the committee that a chief of staff who had improperly prescribed controlled substances as favors to friends had been “removed from that role.” But when pressed, he conceded that she was still working at the VA and was now in charge of quality control.
Here’s the video of some of that testimony as a reminder.
I just don’t know what to say. Donald Trump has made some phenomenal picks for other cabinet positions thus far and I’ve generally been quite optimistic. But this one is a vital choice given the sad state of affairs in that department and I simply don’t understand how Shulkin’s name wound up at the top of the list. Hopefully he’ll be taking directions from Trump and his staff so perhaps the President Elect sees in him a person he can work with who has indicated that he’s ready to strike out in a new direction. We can only hope that’s the case, but it would have been more encouraging to get a fresh face in there with new ideas.