A War Within the VA

A War Within the VA

REUTERS/Larry Downing

A White House official emailed a political appointee to the VA late last year about ways to oust Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, The New York Times reports.

Shulkin says people in his office are “trying to undermine the department from within.” And he said an inspector general’s report charging that he misused taxpayer money for a trip to Europe is inaccurate and biased, but that he would reimburse the government for his wife's airfare and pay for free Wimbledon tickets he had received. Shulkin's chief of staff, Vivieca Wright Simpson, resigned on Friday.

Shulkin's response to the IG report was largely sufficient for the House Veterans Affairs Committee, according to Politico’s Arthur Allen: “At a hearing on the administration's $198 billion VA budget proposal, members on both sides tut-tutted over the $122,000 cost of the trip but treated it as a distraction that they urged Shulkin to clear away so he could deal with substantial problems”

Why all the intrigue over Shulkin’s job? It’s “part of a long-running battle over how to deliver health care to the nation’s veterans,” the Times explains. “The department currently operates its own health system, with more than 1,200 hospitals and clinics across the country where about nine million veterans receive treatment at little or no cost to them. Some conservatives, including some advisers to the White House, favor gradually dismantling that system and allowing veterans to choose to receive taxpayer-subsidized care from private doctors instead.”

Read the full Times story here and for more on the battle over the department, check out Politico and ProPublica’s article, “Inside the Trump Administration’s Internal War Over the VA.”