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Trump fires second cabinet secretary in March, gives veteran affairs to White House doctor

The department of veteran affairs is the second largest bureaucracy in the US government. It provides healthcare and other benefits to an estimated 9 million retired US military personnel and their dependents.

world Updated: Mar 29, 2018 18:17 IST
Yashwant Raj
US President Donald Trump listens as David Shulkin speaks during a Department of Veterans Affairs Telehealth event at the White House in Washington, in August 2017. Shulkin, who served as US Secretary of Veterans Affairs , was fired on Wednesday.
US President Donald Trump listens as David Shulkin speaks during a Department of Veterans Affairs Telehealth event at the White House in Washington, in August 2017. Shulkin, who served as US Secretary of Veterans Affairs , was fired on Wednesday.(Reuters File Photo)

Another week, another firing from the Trump administration.

US President Donald Trump, fired secretary for veteran affairs (VA) David Shulkin on Wednesday and named his personal White House physician Admiral Ronny L Johnson, a serving officer, in his place.

This was Trump’s second cabinet firing in March after secretary of state Rex Tillerson, and fourth of major administration figures this month – the other two were chief economic adviser Gary Cohn and NSA HR McMaster. All four exits were announced almost a week apart, at the rate of one every week.

You’re Fired: White House official Trump dismissed
  • March 28: Veterans Affairs Secretary (cabinet position) David Shulkin
  • March 22: National Security Advisor HR McMaster
  • March 13: Secretary of State (cabinet position) Rex Tillerson
  • March 6: Economic adviser Gary Cohn
  • February 28: Communications director Hope Hicks
  • February 7: Staff secretary Rob Porte
  • December 13, 2017: Communications director for the White House Office of Public Liaison Omarosa Manigault Newma
  • December 8, 2017: Deputy national security advisor Dina Powell
  • September 29, 2017: Health and Human Services Secretary (a cabinet position) Tom Price
  • August 18, 2017: Chief strategist Steve Bannon
  • July 31, 2017: Communications director Anthony Scaramucci
  • July 28, 2017: Chief of staff Reince Priebus
  • July 21, 2017: Press secretary Sean Spicer
  • May 30, 2017: Communications director Michael Dubke
  • May 9, 2017: FBI Director James Comey
  • March 30, 2017: Deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh
  • Feb. 13, 2017: National security adviser Michael Flynn(Source for the graphic: abcnews.go.com)

“I am pleased to announce that I intend to nominate highly respected Admiral Ronny L Jackson, MD, as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs,” the president announced on Twitter, adding in the next post, “… I am thankful for Dr. David Shulkin’s service to our country and to our GREAT VETERANS!”

The department of veteran affairs provides healthcare and other benefits to an estimated 9 million retired US military personnel and their dependents.

It is the second largest bureaucracy in the federal government with 360,000 employees.

More significantly, veterans are a key constituency for Trump who, as a candidate, had wooed them saying he would accord the highest priority to their welfare and fix the many problems afflicting the department. Chiefly, long delays caused, among other things, by a shortage of doctors, nurses and mental care experts.

Jackson is an active-duty military officer who joined the navy after finishing medical school. He served in Iraq and joined the White House in 2006 in the George W Bush administration. He became a persons physician to President Barack Obama and continued in that role with President Trump.

He is well-liked in the White House where he is called “Dr Ronny” — “The Doc” to the president — but was said to be a surprise pick given his lack of experience in leading an organization of a size that could prepare him for the post.

Like, Jackson, Shulkin is a doctor and a holdover from the Obama administration in which he had headed the veterans health administration, a division of the VA. He had ushered major reforms as secretary, handing the president significant victories in an area he cared about deeply.

Shulkin came to be called one of the most popular secretaries in the Trump administration at one time, and even the president was said to be a big fan.

But Shulkin also faced criticism. An internal watchdog found that he had used taxpayer’s money to fund his wife’s airfare for an official visit to Europe in 2017, and another watchdog found serious and persisting shortcomings in the administration of the department.

And, it was said, Shulkin never got along with the president’s inner circle.