Is VA Secretary Really Against Privatization?
The secretary of veterans affairs, once a putative defender of government-provided veterans’ care, is no longer the hero he portrays himself to be.
Suzanne Gordon, The Washington Monthly
David Shulkin, the secretary of veterans affairs, looked like the rare Trump cabinet member who was above using his office for personal enrichment. Then, on Valentine’s Day, the VA Office of the Inspector General released an extensive report on Shulkin’s misuse of VA staff and funds to turn a business trip to Europe last July into a sightseeing vacation for him and his wife. “This was time that should have been spent conducting official VA business and not providing personal travel concierge services to Secretary Shulkin and his wife,” the inspector general concluded.
Following the revelation, Shulkin acknowledged making “mistakes” and remarked that “the optics of this are not good.” But he insisted that leaks about his European jaunt were part of an internal White House plot to unseat him because he has tried to put the breaks on the privatization of the VA health care system. Bolstering his argument, last week ProPublica reported that a coterie of White House staff was trying to oust Shulkin in order to promote the interests of the conservative Koch brothers, who favor total privatization of veteran health care. In the face these reports, Democrats and representatives of veterans service organizations (VSOs) have come—albeit somewhat tepidly—to Shulkin’s defense. READ MORE