Ousted Veterans Administration chief Dr. David Shulkin claims his ouster was engineered by the Trump administration to clear the way for the agency's privatization as a reward to friendly business interests, without considering impact on veterans.
I was ready to jump all over Shulkin as another example of Trump's greedy swamp rats because of bad judgement that he displayed in accepting Wimbledon tennis tickets and taking his wife at taxpayers' expense on a trip to Europe for a conference. News reports said Shulkin's chief of staff had doctored emails to somehow justify government payment for his wife's travel.
That sounded like just another example of Trump appointees sticking it to the taxpayers so they could enjoy some special benefits because of their positions. Others have already been canned for such activities and other heads may be on the chopping block, like the HUD secretary who tried to buy a $31,000 table for his office and then blamed it on his wife.
But then I read this piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer, which reports on an op-ed article that Shulkin wrote for The New York Times. Shulkin blasted the Trump administration for his ouster, claiming it was because he was the last holdover from the Obama administration and was the last man standing in the way of the agency's privatization.
Here's a key passage from Shulkin's article:
“They saw me as an obstacle to privatization who had to be removed. That is because I am convinced that privatization is a political issue aimed at rewarding select people and companies with profits, even if it undermines care for veterans. The department’s understanding of service-related health problems, its groundbreaking research and its special ability to work with military veterans cannot be easily replicated in the private sector.”
That is worrisome. If the VA is privatized it should be done because it would better serve the nation's veterans, not to provide a new piggy bank for Trump-friendly businesses and health service providers.
However, in an interview today with Fox News, Shulkin said he got the axe because Trump was impatient with the pace of progress at the VA. "He wasn't happy with the pace and you know, I agree with @POTUS. This is [an] organization that needs to change, it needs to do better at its job and we all want to do it faster and better," Shulkin told Fox's Bret Baier.
Shulkin was fired Wednesday by Trump, who then appointed White House physician and Navy doctor Adm. Ronny Jackson to replace him. Of course, Adm. Jackson is the doctor who reported that Trump is in excellent health and reported the President's height and weight as just under what is considered obese. So could it be that Trump simply has added another yes-man to his supporting cast.
In his New York Times article, Shulkin blasted the "toxic" and "chaotic" culture in Washington, D.C.
"As I prepare to leave government, I am struck by a recurring thought: It should not be this hard to serve your country," he said.