Published: Wed, March 14, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Trump finally losing patience with VA Sec. Shulkin

Trump finally losing patience with VA Sec. Shulkin

The Associated Press, citing a source familiar with White House discussions, reported Tuesday that Trump was considering replacing Shulkin with Energy Secretary Rick Perry in order to fix a plagued department whose morale has fallen even lower under Shulkin. An armed guard reportedly stands outside his office, in part due to the upheaval and in part as a response to threats Shulkin received after the I.G. report was made public. Shulkin pulled a similar move last week, meeting with Kelly and subsequently calling up The New York Times to declare victory.

The conservatives came to feel that Dr. Shulkin, who advocated a moderate rewrite of the current private care programs, was an obstacle to their goal. Shulkin has since reimbursed the department for his wife's airfare.

The dispute spilled into public over the last month, following a scathing report by department's inspector general on a business trip that Dr. Shulkin took to Britain and Denmark past year.

Shulkin was the VA's undersecretary of health from 2015-16.

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In July 2017, Shulkin traveled to Denmark and Britain with senior department leaders, his wife, and a six-member security detail, according to a February report by the VA's inspector general. The veterans affairs post was among the slots Trump eyed for him before picking him for the Energy Department - one of three that Perry vowed to abolish during his 2012 presidential run, and the one whose name eluded him during an "oops" moment at a 2011 debate.

Shulkin met with Trump's chief of staff, John Kelly, at the White House March 5 to discuss the agency's turmoil.

Mr. Perry is seen as a more pliant figure for the veterans affairs position.

Perry, a former governor of Texas, and Trump discussed veterans health issues, the people said. Perry's immediate predecessor under the Obama administration was a nuclear physicist.

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