Defying the odds, it appears that VA Secretary David Shulkin has survived the debacle of the one-memoed hacker and will be keeping his job, at least for now. The same can’t be said for some of the people working under him, however. Government Executive has a story out today quoting Shulkin as saying that he’s preparing to clean house at the VA, and those who can’t manage to go along with the program should get their resumes updated.
The embattled head of the Veterans Affairs Department on Tuesday shook off any indication that he might step down from his post in the wake of a scandal regarding his travel last year, saying he was setting the direction for the agency and everyone should either get on board or find another place to work.
Reforms and changes at VA are moving forward and that progress will continue, Secretary David Shulkin said after addressing the American Legion’s Commander’s Call conference. Other people throughout the department are reconsidering their roles and their future there, he said, but Shulkin himself has no plans to resign his post. Shulkin came under fire recently when an inspector general’s report found the secretary had improperly accepted gifts and used government funds while traveling in Europe last year on official business.
“I have very little tolerance for people who aren’t willing to focus on moving forward and that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Shulkin said. “I’ve made it clear that there’s only one agenda in the department and that is to get back on track and anybody who doesn’t want to do that shouldn’t be in the VA.”
Shulkin must have a lot of good karma built up in the cosmic bank because he’s apparently thriving under worse conditions than some others who have lost their jobs. A lot of this likely has to do with the fact that the Secretary maintains strong support on the House Veteran Affairs Committee, as Ed noted in the previous article linked at the top. He’s a Democrat and an Obama holdover, but Donald Trump decided to keep him on. From the moment that decision was made, Shulkin appeared to do an abrupt 180-degree turn and fully got on board with Trump’s agenda. That’s earned him a lot of faith from the Oval Office. But being a Democrat with the Obama seal of approval, Democrats in Congress don’t appear to want to go after him too hard either.
The language he’s using in terms of cleaning house is pretty severe, however, if a bit on the cryptic side. He was recently quoted as saying “I will not accept people who are going around the process to try to hurt the momentum and progress that we are having at the VA and working against the president’s agenda.” That sounds more like a search for subversive agents than incompetent staff members. Still, it’s hard to blame him. If he has people on staff who are trying to undermine the mission, why should he tolerate that?
Now if he could only find that hacker who broke into his former Chief of Staff’s email system.