President Donald Trump, in an unexpected announcement Friday, revealed acting Secretary for Veteran Affairs Robert Wilkie to be his nominee to lead the Department of Veteran Affairs.
"Joining us today are several members of my cabinet who are working diligently on this issue," Trump said during an event to address prison reform. "Attorney General Sessions, Secretary Zinke, Secretary Acosta, Secretary Perry, Secretary DeVos, and acting Secretary Wilkie, who has done an incredible job at the VA. And I will be informing him in a little while–he doesn't know this yet–that we will be putting his name up for nomination to be secretary of the veterans administration."
"I'm sorry I ruined the surprise," Trump added.
Trump previously nominated Dr. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician and a Navy rear admiral, to serve as secretary of veterans affairs, but Jackson's nomination became hampered by a wave of allegations about his professional behavior. Sen. Jon Tester (D., Mont.), the ranking member on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, released a document listing the allegations, which included creating a hostile work environment, drinking on the job, and loosely handling prescription pain medications.
Trump went on to talk about the VA MISSION Act, which passed the House of Representatives on Thursday. The act "will strengthen the VA and provide timely and seamless care to VA patients, modernize VA health care by making investments in VA assets and provide $5.2 billion in urgently needed funds in order to prevent interruption of Veterans currently using the Choice Program," the White House said in a statement.
"We are very close to getting ‘Choice' approved, which for almost 40 years they could not get approved," Trump said. "The House just past ‘Choice' and it's the finer level of choice. We had different levels of choice: good, bad, okay and really good. I think this falls into the ‘really good' category. It will be a little more expensive, but that's okay."