VA's challenges raise questions from some about Jackson's experience

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin was ousted via Twitter Wednesday

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin was ousted via Twitter Wednesday

The president said he is thankful for Mr. Shulkin's "service to our country and to our GREAT VETERANS!"

Robert Wilkie will serve as acting VA Secretary until Jackson can be confirmed.

Coffman, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, was outspoken that former VA chief David Shulkin "needed to go", but he has doubts whether Navy Rear Admiral Jackson - or anyone else - can make the necessary reparations at the embattled VA. Some major veterans groups expressed support for keeping Mr. Shulkin in the post.

Mr Shulkin, the lone Obama administration holdover serving in President Donald Trump's Cabinet, blasted a "toxic" and "subversive" environment in Washington that made it impossible for him to lead. While the president initially praised his performance, he began to sour on Mr. Shulkin this year after an inspector general's report criticized the secretary for wasting taxpayer money on a trip to Europe with his wife last summer. Trump, who promised improved veterans' care during his presidential campaign, past year said the department had made "tremendous progress" under Shulkin.

Montana Sen. Jon Tester, top Democrat on the panel that will consider the nomination, said he had yet to determine if Jackson "is up to the job".

Most prominently, in 2013, Obama selected Jackson to become his personal presidential physician, and Trump has kept him on in the same role.

Asked how Jackson is qualified to oversee medical care for United States veterans, a White House official told CNN Wednesday that Jackson would bring with him both a medical and military background to the department as well as past praise for his work in previous administrations.

"When you look at population health measures, VA nearly always outperforms the private sector", he said at the Population Health Colloquium on March 19th, adding that the agency has been successful at treating veteran health holistically.

Former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, seen here on March 7, says advocates of privatizing the agency, a policy he opposes, are responsible for his removal from the Cabinet.

But Shulkin also claimed that the current administration viewed him as an obstacle to fulfilling its agenda of privatizing the V.A, which he said would reward "select people and companies with profits, even if it undermines care for veterans".

"There is little that we know about Dr. Ronny Jackson's vision and qualifications", said Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. The group said it would provide the president with "an increased level of feedback" on veterans' issues. The department, which has 370,000 employees and serves more than 20 million veterans, has struggled to modernize with its inefficient health care system ensnared in crisis.

Shulkin, who is Jewish, has been embroiled in scandals in recent weeks, including overspending on travel and infighting with senior White House officials for, among other things, working to privatize health care for veterans.

Jones said Jackson will likely encounter a learning curve, particularly in light of the fact that he has never run an agency. That was one of the reasons, he said, that the VA was seeing improvements in veteran homelessness, unemployment, and opioid abuse rates.

"We're hopeful that Dr. Jackson will forcefully come out against the notion of any privatization of the VA or its health services", he said. Trump, who is known to eat junk food and to avoid exercise beyond golf, is overweight and has set a "reasonable goal" of losing 10 to 15 pounds in the coming year and developing a regular fitness routine, Jackson said. The department is one of the federal government's largest, with a $186 billion yearly budget and a staff of 360,000.

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