LATEST PAPER
78° Good Afternoon
78° Good Afternoon
OpinionEditorial

Reason to be wary of choice to lead Dept. of Veterans Affairs

Getting veterans the care they need is a nonpartisan priority.

Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician,

Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician, is President Donald Trump's choice to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. Above, he speaks at a press briefing on Jan. 16, 2018. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images / NICHOLAS KAMM

Caring for our nation’s military veterans was one of Donald Trump’s most consistent promises on the presidential campaign trail, and certainly one of his least controversial. Getting veterans the care they need is a nonpartisan priority.

But the increased quality of care Trump promised hasn’t come.

Facilities in many communities are falling apart. The Department of Veterans Affairs is increasingly being exposed as dangerous and dysfunctional. Last week, as was expected, Trump fired the secretary of veterans affairs, David Shulkin, who could never rise above his ethical violations and his shoddy leadership. In a devastating 150-page report after an internal VA probe found issues with patient care, including dirty syringes, equipment shortages, communications breakdowns and wasteful spending at a Veterans Affairs medical center in Washington that put patients at risk. And Shulkin has admitted the problems are “systemic.”

Many of the violations occurred when Shulkin was the VA’s undersecretary of health under President Barack Obama in 2015 and 2016. And these revelations came on the heels of Shulkin admitting he improperly accepted Wimbledon tennis tickets and his then-chief of staff doctored emails to justify Shulkin’s wife traveling to Europe with him at taxpayer expense. He is not a victim here.

However, his designated replacement, Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician for the past three administrations, might not be the best candidate. Jackson garnered high praise from Trump for performing well during a news conference about the results of the president’s physical exam and the two reportedly have a close working relationship.

While Jackson is highly regarded as a physician, his resume does not include a shred of evidence that he can lead the government’s second-largest bureaucracy (it has a $186 billion budget) and probably its most dysfunctional. This might be the toughest management job in Washington.

Before the Senate confirms Jackson, it must elicit his views on further privatization of medical care, which other Trump appointees are recklessly pushing as a way to dismantle the agency instead of providing improved service. And unless the Senate can ensure that Jackson can overcome his lack of management experience and create a solid plan for building a leadership team that can improve care, it should reject his nomination.

If Jackson is confirmed, Trump must make sure their communications remain constant. Jackson will need the president’s full support to get the VA running properly and all of its facilities up to par.

We owe these veterans. There can be no reneging.

Top News stories