Trump Taps Obama Undersecretary to Lead Troubled VA

David Shulkin leaves Trump Tower / AP
David Shulkin leaves Trump Tower / AP
January 11, 2017

Donald Trump revealed Wednesday that he will nominate President Obama's undersecretary for health at the Department of Veterans Affairs to lead the agency, after weeks of meeting with several candidates for the job.

Trump said he will nominate David Shulkin, a physician and the current undersecretary for health at the Department of Veterans Affairs, to serve as VA secretary, Politico first reported late Wednesday morning.

Shulkin, the chief executive at the VA's nationwide network of hospitals, was nominated by Obama to serve in the post in 2015. He met with the president-elect at Trump Tower in New York City on Monday.

As of last week, Trump was still searching for a candidate to lead the VA, meeting with Leo Mackay Jr., senior vice president of Lockheed Martin Corporation, and Nancy Schlichting, a former CEO of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit and chairwoman of the VA Commission on Care.

Two individuals rumored to be leading choices for the job–Toby Cosgrove, CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, and Luis Quinonez, president of MAQ Diversified–recently withdrew their names from consideration.

Last year, Trump met with former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R.) and Pete Hegseth, an Army veteran and former CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, about the position. Former Florida Congressman Jeff Miller, a Republican chair of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs who just retired, was also said to be under consideration to head the VA.

Veterans service organizations have put pressure on Trump to keep on Obama's current VA secretary, Robert McDonald, who was installed at the top post following the 2014 wait list controversy.

"I have no doubt Dr. Shulkin will be able to lead the turnaround our Department of Veterans Affairs needs. His sole mandate will be to serve our veterans and restore the level of care we owe to our brave men and women in the military," Trump said in a statement.

"Sadly our great veterans have not gotten the level of care they deserve, but Dr. Shulkin has the experience and the vision to ensure we will meet the healthcare needs of every veteran," Trump continued. "Dr. Shulkin is an incredibly gifted doctor who is using his elite talents for medicine to care for our heroes, and Americans can have faith he will get the job done right."

Shulkin said he will be honored to serve as VA secretary in the Trump administration.

"President-elect Trump's commitment to caring for our veterans is unquestionable, and he is eager to support the best practices for care and provide our Veterans Affairs' teams with the resources they need to improve health outcomes," Shulkin said. "We are both eager to begin reforming the areas in our Veterans Affairs system that need critical attention, and do it in a swift, thoughtful, and responsible way."

Trump has unveiled a 10-point plan to reform the VA, drawing on a number of proposals put forth by Republican lawmakers who have been critical of the Obama administration's handling of persisting shortfalls at the agency's hospital network.

Rep. Phil Roe (R., Tenn.), the new chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, expressed approval of Trump's choice in a brief statement.

"I am pleased President-elect Trump has chosen a physician to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, especially one familiar with the integrating of private practitioners into the VA's network of health care providers," Roe, who served two years in the United States Army Medical Corps, said.

"I've long said I would be happy to work with anyone committed to ensuring our heroes have access to the services they have earned, especially quality health care, and I look forward to working with Dr. Shulkin to bring wholesale reform to the Department."