SEVERE WX : Heat Advisory View Alerts
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Embattled VA Secretary Shulkin faces skeptical Congress

In the weeks since a sharply critical inspector general report faulted Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin with ...

Posted: Mar 2, 2018 9:56 AM
Updated: Mar 2, 2018 9:56 AM

In the weeks since a sharply critical inspector general report faulted Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin with misusing taxpayer funds and amid reports of an agency rife with tension and infighting, Shulkin has maintained that he is fully in control, insisting that he has "no tolerance" for those who try to distract from the department's mission.

But on Capitol Hill, lawmakers seem frustrated by a steady stream of events that have put more attention on the agency's internal squabbles than the veterans it seeks to serve.

Two top Democrats on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee -- Jon Tester of Montana and Sen. Patty Murray of Washington -- each pointed to "chaos" and "infighting" at the department.

"I'm deeply concerned by reports of chaos at the highest levels of VA, which seems to be a trademark of this Administration," Murray, who was briefed on Thursday by department Inspector General Michael Missal on Thursday about the investigation, said in a statement. "That chaos is a huge disservice to millions of veterans across the country who deserve a department that is fully focused on serving their needs."

Cassie Byerly, a spokeswoman for Tester, said that "veterans deserve better than a VA that's crippled by infighting."

Asked whether Tester still backed Shulkin, Byerly said that America's veterans need leaders at the Veterans Affairs Department and in the White House focused on ending the department's Veterans Choice Program and ensuring veterans have access to quality care.

"That means we need a secretary who works for our veterans, not for the Koch Brothers," she said.

Shulkin has been working to clear his name and restore confidence in his leadership since the inspector general report found that he and senior members of his staff misled agency ethics officials and that Shulkin misused taxpayer funds.

Shulkin has taken issue with the report, calling it "entirely inaccurate," but has said he would follow all inspector general recommendations and has already repaid the US Treasury for his wife's travel. He has said that he regrets that the matter has taken the focus off the department's mission.

He has also said that the Europe trip, which included a veterans mental health conference as well as sightseeing and a Wimbledon match, was essential to his job.

But it is also unclear whether he has full control of his agency as power struggles over competing policy priorities between Shulkin and Trump appointees spill into the open.

Those include the departure of Shulkin's chief of staff, who was named in the IG investigation, and reports that two White House advisers were meeting with key veterans groups to discuss policy issues without the presence of Shulkin's key aides.

The latest signal of turmoil came Wednesday when USA Today and The Washington Post each reported that John Ullyot, a senior aide at the department, tried to get a top House Veterans' Affairs Committee staffer to encourage members to demand the resignation of Shulkin, and his deputy secretary, Thomas Bowman. Ullyot was joined on the call by the department's press secretary, Curt Cashour, the newspapers reported.

Ullyot and Cashour in a joint statement provided to reporters disputed the characterization of the call and said the allegation was "ridiculous."

Amanda Maddox, a spokeswoman for Sen. Johnny Isakson, the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, told CNN that Isakson still "strongly supports" Shulkin, but did not respond to a request for comment on Shulkin's aides reportedly attempting to oust him. Tiffany Haverly, communications director for House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Phil Roe, said that Roe has said "both publicly and privately, on multiple occasions, that the secretary and deputy secretary have his full support."

So far, just one lawmaker -- Colorado Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, a member of the House Veterans Affairs panel -- has called for Shulkin's resignation. On Wednesday, he called on President Donald Trump to remove Shulkin from his job, saying that Shulkin "clearly lacks the moral authority to lead the VA" and the integrity expected of a member of Trump's Cabinet.

Shulkin was at the White House on Thursday -- alongside two other embattled Cabinet heads -- for a White House summit on the opioid epidemic, a chief policy priority of the Trump administration.

During the daily briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that Shulkin was "glad for the job [Shulkin] is doing to reform and modernize the VA," and that the President supported that work. She added that the White House is reviewing Shulkin and his wife's travel expenses, to ensure that Shulkin is "being responsible with taxpayer dollars."

Huntsville
Few Clouds
71° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 71°
Florence
Few Clouds
67° wxIcon
Hi: 96° Lo: 75°
Feels Like: 67°
Fayetteville
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 70°
Decatur
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 67°
Scottsboro
Scattered Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 70°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 56441

Reported Deaths: 1136
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson7186174
Mobile5206147
Montgomery4690114
Tuscaloosa277754
Madison27299
Marshall209012
Shelby182026
Lee171637
Morgan14296
Baldwin139611
Walker112635
DeKalb11187
Etowah110414
Elmore110124
Dallas102810
Franklin96016
Unassigned81428
Russell7340
Autauga73317
Chambers69332
Limestone6914
Cullman6896
Houston6587
Butler65631
St. Clair6463
Tallapoosa64669
Lauderdale6337
Colbert5826
Calhoun5776
Escambia5228
Lowndes49723
Pike4915
Jackson4722
Coffee4534
Covington43913
Talladega4337
Dale4142
Barbour4133
Bullock38010
Hale36723
Marengo36411
Chilton3563
Blount3441
Marion33214
Clarke3296
Wilcox3258
Winston3157
Sumter30413
Pickens2806
Randolph27910
Monroe2773
Perry2632
Conecuh2478
Bibb2322
Macon2279
Choctaw22112
Greene2019
Henry1613
Washington1588
Lawrence1510
Crenshaw1403
Cherokee1357
Geneva1060
Lamar951
Clay922
Fayette902
Coosa691
Cleburne531
Out of AL00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 66788

Reported Deaths: 767
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby14447229
Davidson14205155
Rutherford383939
Hamilton364838
Sumner210357
Williamson199016
Knox181512
Out of TN173711
Trousdale15135
Wilson127517
Putnam10917
Bradley10615
Unassigned10511
Robertson98413
Sevier9424
Montgomery8507
Tipton7277
Lake6960
Macon6527
Bedford6359
Bledsoe6341
Hamblen5144
Maury5133
Hardeman4564
Madison3952
Fayette3936
Rhea3620
Blount3583
Loudon3342
Dyer3103
McMinn30719
Cheatham3013
Dickson2950
Washington2930
Sullivan2775
Lawrence2596
Cumberland2285
Anderson2192
Gibson2171
Lauderdale2044
Jefferson1961
Smith1872
Warren1640
Greene1632
Monroe1566
Coffee1550
Cocke1520
Haywood1503
Hardin1427
Marshall1322
Giles1311
Obion1313
McNairy1261
Wayne1260
Franklin1243
Carter1202
Hickman1140
Lincoln1060
DeKalb1000
Hawkins1002
Marion1004
Roane940
White943
Henderson900
Chester830
Weakley811
Claiborne800
Overton801
Campbell751
Crockett713
Grundy672
Unicoi610
Cannon600
Grainger590
Carroll581
Polk570
Henry560
Sequatchie530
Humphreys522
Jackson520
Johnson490
Perry440
Meigs400
Decatur390
Morgan341
Stewart320
Scott300
Fentress290
Union290
Clay270
Houston240
Moore230
Benton171
Hancock120
Lewis120
Van Buren110
Pickett80

 

 

Community Events