White House physician nominated to lead VA
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump nominated White House doctor Ronny Jackson to replace David Shulkin as Veterans Affairs Secretary after a bruising ethics scandal and a mounting rebellion within the agency.
A Navy rear admiral, Jackson is a surprise choice to succeed Shulkin, a former Obama administration official and the first nonveteran to head the VA. Trump fired Shulkin on Wednesday. The president had been considering replacing Shulkin for weeks but had not been known to be considering Jackson for the role.
In a statement, Trump praised Jackson as "highly trained and qualified." It was a decision that signaled Trump chose to go with someone he knows and trusts, rather than choosing a candidate with a longer resume, to run a massive agency facing huge bureaucratic challenges.
Shulkin said he was undone by advocates of privatization within the administration. He wrote in a New York Times opinion piece that they "saw me as an obstacle to privatization who had to be removed." He added: "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."
Jackson has served since 2013 as the physician to the president, one of the people in closest proximity to Trump day in and day out.
His profile rose after he conducted a sweeping news conference about the president's medical exam in January in which he impressed Trump with his camera-ready demeanor and deft navigation of reporters' questions as he delivered a rosy depiction of the president's health, according to a person familiar with the president's thinking but not authorized to discuss private conversations.
Jackson eagerly embraced the idea of moving to the VA, according to a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters.