Another Trump Administration official has heard his famous catchphrase: “You’re fired!” Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin was the last major holdover from the Obama Administration, kept on and promoted by Trump because of his outspoken criticism of the shocking VA scandals that had led to veterans dying on waiting lists for care while the officials responsible covered their rears and kept their jobs. Shulkin was reportedly let go because of internal criticism over lavish travel expenses. But he denied that the travel costs were excessive and instead blamed his firing on his opposition to privatization of veterans care. Or as one Democratic Representative predictably put it, “Trump’s extreme privatization agenda."
To the left, “extreme” is a dirty word that is only applied to their opponents’ views, no matter how mainstream (for instance, if you agree with the vast majority of Americans in opposing unfettered abortion, you’re an “extreme” pro-lifer), but never to their own genuinely extreme views. Personally, I am proudly “extreme” in my views on veterans care: our veterans deserve extremely high quality care, the best we can possibly provide; and if VA clinics can’t deliver it in an extremely timely fashion, then they deserve to go to any hospital they prefer that can. I don’t give a flying fig whether that undermines the VA system. The bureaucracy exists to serve the veterans, not the other way around.
Trump has named White House physician Adm. Ronny Jackson, who also served in the Obama and George W. Bush Administrations, to be the new VA head. He’s widely respected across the political spectrum, and as we know from his press conference in which he had to deal with reporters devastated to learn that Trump is both mentally and physically fit, he has vast amounts of patience when dealing with the impaired.
Some veterans groups such as Disabled American Veterans are concerned about his lack of experience as a government administrator. Jackson will need to get up to speed fast and prove himself in the job, but he seems to be the type of person who is up to the challenge. His predecessors, who had plenty of Washington “administrative experience,” didn’t set the bar very high. His goal should be to make care for our veterans the highest quality possible, not to live up – or down – to the standards in place before he got there.
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