March 9, 2018 – VA Secretary David Shulkin has been embattled in scandals in recent weeks, and has begun to purge the VA bureaucracy.
Beginning with the revelation that Secretary Shulkin accepted Wimbledon tickets as a gift while serving as Secretary, and took his wife with him on a lavish European vacation payed for by taxpayers, Shulkin, with the support of the White House, has announced he will be firing those in the agency who have undermined him. He is now fighting to keep his standing in the eyes of the White House and the veteran community.
Office of Inspector General Report
Earlier this week, the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report detailing widespread disorganization and waste at the Washington D.C. VA medical center. The 150-page report detailed patterns of wasteful spending through the use of government credit cards, repeated instances of the unavailability of sterilized equipment, and a backlog of requests for eyeglasses and prosthetics.
The deficiencies focused on by the report mostly took place while Shulkin was the head of the healthcare arm of the VA.
In the wake of the report, Shulkin has vowed to reorganize the agency. He has put in place oversight teams to ensure these problems are remedied and avoided at other VA facilities. He recently announced that he removed three regional directors who oversaw 23 VA hospitals in an effort to consolidate oversight.
Crisis of Leadership
VA staffers have reported a crisis of leadership at the agency as Shulkin insulates himself among his most trusted staffers. Reports cite that he has not met with his public-affairs chief in weeks.
Additionally, the uncertainty of Shulkin’s position has endangered veterans’ health care policy. Questions regarding the privatization of veterans’ health care have surrounded the Choice Program since it was enacted in 2014, and these questions loom still today. The VA and the current Administration have been looking at giving veterans a greater ability to go outside the VA to private doctors.
Veterans Service Organizations are concerned over the possibility of privatizing the VA healthcare system, saying that increased privatization would take much-needed resources away from the VA healthcare system.
Legislation to extend the Choice Program is currently deadlocked in Congress.