Embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin was fired from his post Wednesday as President Donald Trump continues to reshuffle his cabinet.
Trump said he is nominating his personal doctor, Ronny Jackson, whom he called “highly respected”, to replace Shulkin.
“In the interim, Hon. Robert Wilkie of DOD will serve as Acting Secretary. I am thankful for Dr. David Shulkin’s service to our country and to our GREAT VETERANS!” Trump said on Twitter.
Shulkin’s dismissal is the second this month of high-ranking officials after Trump ousted outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson amid major foreign policy disagreements. And the White House has been in a state of near-constant flux amid a stream of high-profile departures.
Notably, former White House communications director Hope Hicks and Economic Advisor Gary Cohn resigned in the past month, and former staff secretary Rob Porter was pressured out over revelations of spousal abuse allegations from his two former wives.
Last week, Trump announced he removed National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster from his post over policy disagreements and replaced him with former acting U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton whose hawkish approach to international affairs more closely aligns with Trump’s.
Shulkin’s dismissal comes after a scathing inspector general report that criticized his travel to Europe last year. The Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Inspector General report chronicled impropriety ranging from Shulkin’s improper acceptance of Wimbledon tickets as a gift, and his wife accompanying him on the trip at taxpayer’s expense. He agreed to pay the government back more than $4,000 for his wife’s travel expenses amid outcry.
Jackson, Trump’s pick to replace Shulkin, is a career naval officer who has no experience helming a major bureaucy like the VA, which is the second largest in the U.S. and is dogged by a litany of problems that successive administration’s have been unable to resolve.
That inexperience prompted the leader of a major veterans advocacy group to express major concern over his nomination.
“I am deeply concerned about the nominee. Veterans’ lives depend on this decision, and the Trump administration needs to substantiate that this active-duty Navy officer is qualified to run a $200 billion bureaucracy,” said Joe Chenelly, executive director of American Veterans, a non-partisan group.
Phil Roe, the chairman of the House Veteran Affairs Committee said he hates to see Shulking go, but ultimately “cabinet secretaries serve at the pleasure of the president”.
“That said, I respect President Trump’s decision, support the president’s agenda and remain willing to work with anyone committed to doing the right thing on behalf of our nation’s veterans,” he said in a statement.