President Donald Trump’s reshuffling of his Cabinet continued Wednesday with the ouster of Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin.
Dr. Ronny Jackson became a White House physician in 2006, during the George W. Bush administration, and was appointed physician to the president in 2013 under Barack Obama. Trump kept him on when he became president, and it was Jackson who conducted Trump’s most recent physical exam.
Shulkin, also a holdover from the Obama era, served as the head of the nation’s second-largest government agency for little more than a year. He had been locked for months in a power struggle with a group of Trump political appointees among his senior staff who wanted him out.
Shulkin had pledged the VA would not be privatized on his watch but would provide veterans expanded opportunities to get private-sector care. White House political appointees want a more comprehensive overhaul and even more veteran access to VA-funded care in the private sector.
Shulkin’s tenure was marked by his implication in a widening ethics scandal. In September 2017, the Veterans Affairs inspector general’s office found that he spent nearly half of a taxpayer-funded 10-day trip to Europe sightseeing with his wife.
Shulkin initially defended the trip, which included shopping, attending the women’s tennis final at Wimbledon, and a river cruise, as “nothing inappropriate.”
The inspector general, however, stated in a report, that Shulkin’s chief of staff had lied to investigators and had forged an email to justify Shulkin’s wife’s presence on the trip.
The report also found that Shulkin had misled investigators about the nature of his relationship with the woman who provided Wimbledon tickets for himself and his wife, describing her as a “friend” of his wife’s instead of as a business contact. The woman, when asked by investigators, could not remember Shulkin’s wife’s first name.