Shulkin slams 'toxic' Washington, speaks out against VA privatization

After enduring negative reports on his character for more than a month, the fired VA Secretary blasts those in the government with personal agendas.
By Jessica Davis
10:37 AM
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Veterans Affairs EHR

VA Secretary Shulkin testifying during the House Appropriations Subcommittee on March 15. Credit: C-span

Last night, President Trump announced on Twitter that he was ousting Department of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, MD and advocating for his personal physician Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson as a replacement.

After more than a month of rumored agency infighting and Shulkin falling out of Trump’s graces, Shulkin has finally broken his silence and is using this platform to speak out about what he sees as those “putting their personal agendas in front of the well-being of our veterans.”

[Also: Trump dumps VA chief David Shulkin, will give his personal doctor oversight over agency]

“I have fought to stand up for this great department and all that it embodies,” Shulkin wrote in a New York Times OP-ED. “In recent months, though, the environment in Washington has turned so toxic, chaotic, disrespectful and subversive that it became impossible for me to accomplish the important work that our veterans need and deserve.”

"It should not be this hard to serve your country," he wrote.

Shulkin specifically called out those within the agency pushing to privatize veterans’ healthcare -- a move he has continuously spoken out against to Congress. In fact, just two weeks ago Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Florida asked Shulkin directly if he was being pushed to privatize care.

His response? “I’ve been clear that I think this would be the wrong decision for our veterans.” 

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Shulkin’s goal was to support the VA health system by creating private partnerships, which will help deal with those long wait times and underperforming VA medical centers.

However, Shulkin wrote that the VA has become “entangled in a brutal power struggle” between those who want to improve VA healthcare  -- and those who want to move it to the private sector.

“They saw me as an obstacle to privatization who had to be removed,” he wrote. “These individuals, who seek to privatize veteran health care as an alternative to government-run VA care, unfortunately, fail to engage in realistic plans regarding who will care for the more than 9 million veterans who rely on the department for life-sustaining care.”

[Also: Shulkin doubles-down on EHR modernization as price tag swells]

While many reports have hinted at the issues Shulkin blasted in his OP-ED, this is the first time he’s broken his silence. And although Trump has fired other cabinet members via Twitter -- think former White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson -- but they’ve remained relatively silent despite the rumors surrounding the conditions of their removal.

Shulkin said he plans to “continue to speak out against those who seek to harm the V.A. by putting their personal agendas in front of the well-being of our veterans.”

Twitter: @JessieFDavis
Email the writer: jessica.davis@himssmedia.com