In a searing New York Times opinion piece, Shulkin wrote the agency, which is responsible for providing medical care to 9 million veterans, became enveloped in recent months in a "brutal power struggle". He also said he was removed from his position by people who wanted to privatize the VA and said it was "a bad idea". But despite these politically-based attacks on me and my family's character, I am proud of my record and know that I acted with the utmost integrity.
The IG released findings February 14 that Shulkin violated ethical standards on an official trip that he and his wife took to Denmark and London during summer. The Inspector General's report criticized Mr. Shulkin for the expenses on the trip, including improperly accepting those tickets. Shulkin had agreed to reimburse the government more than $4,000.
He addressed the IG report Thursday with NPR, claiming the trip was "mischaracterized".
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Other tactics have also been deployed, with some voters saying they were paid and given other incentives to cast their ballots. The government has hoped for high turnout to lend the election legitimacy, and has staggered the voting over three days.
Physician to President Donald Trump, Dr. Ronny Jackson, speaks during the daily White House press briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC., Jan. 16, 2018.
An internal investigation of the Department of Veterans, initiated after a journalistic revelation, concluded that the secretary committed "serious negligence" during a trip he made in 2017 to the United Kingdom and Denmark.
Shulkin's earlier public comments on the matter rubbed White House officials, including chief of staff John Kelly, the wrong way.
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"The president wants somebody who gives him the best possible care to go over and give that same care to the veterans", a White House official told Reuters. "I am in the process of reaching out to Dr. Jackson and I look forward to building a strong relationship with him also". In 2005, he joined the 2nd Marines, Combat Logistics Regiment 25, and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as the emergency medicine physician in charge of resuscitative medicine for a Surgical Shock Trauma Platoon, according to the White House.
During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly pledged to fix the VA, which was still reeling after a 2014 scandal at its Phoenix medical center, where veterans waited months for care even as VA employees created secret waiting lists to cover up delays. "He's honorable and cares a great deal about veterans", Shulkin said of Jackson. "He has been a great supporter of veterans across the country and I am grateful for his service". But his experience with veterans issues and management remains unknown. "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, the second largest agency in the government". It operates on a almost $200 billion budget.
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The sudden departure comes as Mr Trump is seeking to expand the Veterans Choice programme, a campaign promise that major veterans' groups worry could be an unwanted step towards privatising VA health care.