Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs came as a surprise to some. Dr. David Shulkin, advanced by the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee last week, will be the first secretary of the VA that is not a veteran himself. This breaks a 94-year-old tradition of military service on the part of permanent or acting heads of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. While Dr. Shulkin has not served in the U.S. military, both of his parents were healthcare providers in the Army.
Trump’s choice was also surprising in that Dr. Shulkin currently serves as the Under Secretary for Health for the Department of Veterans Affairs, an appointment he received from former President Obama. Trump’s appointments have shown little holdover from the Obama administration. Dr. Shulkin has received little pushback from Democrats in the Senate.
Dr. Shulkin has vowed not to privatize the VA. He has, however, committed to reforming the Choice Program, which allows veterans to receive care from the private sector, and to using community integration. Dr. Shulkin has also promised “greater accountability, dramatically improved access, responsiveness and expanded care options…”
Dr. Shulkin has a lot of work to do to improve wait times at VA medical centers and the other issues that have plagued the VA for many years. Luckily, he is familiar with the organization and should be able to dive right into his new role.