Fired VA secretary says privatization advocates doomed him

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"At a time of critical negotiations over the future of veterans health care reform, VA today has no Secretary, no Under Secretary of Health or Benefits, and the named Acting Secretary has no background in health care and no apparent experience working in or with the Department". President Trump had been concerned over how reports about Shulkin undercut his campaign message to "drain the swamp" in Washington.

Responding to Jackson's nomination in a statement on Thursday, VoteVets-an advocacy group that has argued Trump's push to privatizate the VA is "bad for veterans"-expressed concerns about Jackson's inexperience and urged him to immediately take a firm stand against privatization".

"I am pleased to announce that I intend to nominate highly respected Admiral Ronny L. Jackson, MD, as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs", Trump said in a tweet.

A White House official said Shulkin was informed of his dismissal by Chief of Staff John Kelly before the president announced the move on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon.

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

"I've made the decision to reimburse the Treasury, to follow the IG recommendations and I'm committed to doing what we have to do to focus on veterans and make this better", he said. "As we've said pretty much every day since we got here-because you guys have continued to ask about this topic every single day-there was no collusion, and we're very confident in that, and look forward to this process wrapping up".

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The first Health Secretary, Tom Price, resigned in September for similar reasons.

David Shulkin and named his White House physician to the post.

Unemployment among veterans is near its lowest level in years, at 3.5 percent, and the percent of veterans who have regained trust in VA services has risen to 70 percent, from 46 percent four years ago.

The firing comes a month after the VA's internal watchdog concluded that Shulkin had improperly accepted Wimbledon tennis tickets and that his then-chief of staff had doctored emails to justify his wife traveling to Europe with him at taxpayer expense. He also said he was removed from his position by people who wanted to privatize the VA and said it was "a awful idea". Ultimately, the plan was removed from the omnibus bill that was negotiated last week.

At the start of the new presidency, Shulkin cultivated a good relationship with Trump, who saw him as an efficient manager and praised by both parties to improve the complicated bureaucracy of the second largest federal department, which assists more than 20 million veterans and in the past has been involved in controversy over its hospital management.

Physician Shulkin ran private-sector health systems and served a year as VA undersecretary of health before becoming secretary.

What's more, negotiations between VA and Cerner have been delayed.

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