Tuesday, 20 February 2018

White house assures VA secretary David Shulkin that he will stay after damaging report

 Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said he has received assurances from the White House that his job is not in jeopardy following a scathing inspector general’s report last week that he misused taxpayers dollars during a trip to Europe.
After a meeting at the White House Tuesday, Shulkin told the press that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly had assured him he would stay in place. “I’m the secretary, I’m in charge of carrying out the president’s agenda, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” he said. “I came here always with the intention of fighting for veterans and that’s what I’m going to continue to do, which is to focus this agency on improving the VA for veterans.”
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin
The White House had remained silent on the issue until Tuesday. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said during a press briefing that she has “no reason to believe” President Trump had lost confidence in Shulkin.
Shulkin’s fate had been in question since the report’s release last Wednesday.

Investigators from the VA inspector general’s office found Shulkin wrongly accepted Wimbledon tickets and airfare for his wife at taxpayers’ expense during a trip to London and Denmark last July. They found the couple spent more than half the trip sightseeing and misused a VA staffer to plan the activities. In addition, investigators determined his chief of staff falsified an email to secure clearance for his wife to accompany him.  
In the days following the report’s release, Shulkin first attacked the investigation as unfair, then suggested his chief of staff’s email was hacked, and, in what looked like another deflection of responsibility, he pointed to a group of aides targeting and undermining him.
He later expressed remorse and agreed to repay the cost of the tennis tickets and his wife’s airfare. His chief of staff Vivieca Wright Simpson retired.
Shulkin issued an apology to employees Friday for the way he handled the findings.
“This week there have been some unfortunate distractions from our core mission of serving Veterans. For that I take responsibility and recognize that this could have been handled better; I owe you an apology for that,” he wrote in an email. “Going forward, it is most important that we all remain focused on the great work that you are doing and our efforts to do even better in the future.”
Still, Shulkin will have some work ahead of him to stem division among the top ranks at the VA.
The White House on Friday installed a new chief of staff at his agency — a move normally left to a Cabinet secretary’s discretion. And his communications staff is reporting to the White House rather than to him. The situation has created confusion about who is running the agency among employees, on Capitol Hill and at outside veterans’ organizations, who scrambled to issue statements of support for Shulkin in recent days.
Shulkin told the press that he plans to get everyone on the same page going forward and remove those who don’t.
“I don’t know any executive that can run an organization where there are multiple agendas and where the people in charge aren’t all aligned on the same goal,” he said. “I made it clear that I cannot tolerate that, and that everyone is going to have to get focused on the president’s agenda and what I’m trying to do, and if they aren’t able to do that, they can’t remain in the organization.”

Author: verified_user