On Wednesday, President-elect Donald Trump announced that he has chosen David Shulkin as his Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
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“I appointed today the head secretary of the Veterans Administration, David Shulkin,” Trump said during his news conference. “We’ll do a news release in a little while. I’ll tell you about David, he’s fantastic. He’s fantastic. He will do a truly great job. One of the commitments I’ve made is that we’re going to straighten out the whole situation for our veterans.”
Shulkin is currently the under secretary for health at the VA, a position he was nominated for by President Obama in 2015. While in this position, he ran the Veterans Health Administration and oversaw more than 1,700 health care sites across the country. Before joining the VA, he served as a physician, CEO of the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, president of the Morristown Medical Center and chief medical officer of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. However, Shulkin is not a veteran, meaning that he will be the first non-veteran to head the VA.
While veterans’ care advocates had lobbied Trump to keep current VA Secretary Robert McDonald in the position — arguing that they’ve witnessed progress within the department — the president-elect held true to his pledge on the campaign trail to overhaul the VA by nominating Shulkin instead.
“My number one imperative is to address the access issue among veterans,” he told The Washington Post in 2016 in regard to the VA’s backlog. “What we know about American medicine is that our supply of health-care professionals is not equally distributed. In rural areas, we have severe shortages. I’ve seen firsthand how difficult it is to recruit to some of the areas where our veterans live. We have a shortage of both nurses and physicians. We are recruiting thousands of doctors and advanced-practice nurses.”
Trump’s recent choice leaves only one Cabinet post open: the secretary of agriculture.