Robert Wilkie of DOD will serve as Acting Secretary.
President Donald Trump announced Wednesday he will replace his Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin with Admiral Ronny Jackson, who now serves as physician to the President. The power struggle centered on differences over a shift to offering veterans more medical care from private doctors at taxpayer expense, with conservatives at VA and in the White House pushing for more private care and Shulkin favoring a more moderate approach. After touting Trump's campaign pledges to increase accountability at the VA, he balked at the results of an investigation released last month that found he and his staff had committed ethics violations in planning and taking a European trip a year ago. Shulkin initially pushed back at VA inspector general's determination his chief of staff misled ethics officials to get clearance for airfare for his wife, speculating her email had been hacked.
Later, another reporter asked about Shulkin and Trump's relationship. As recently as Monday, one White House aide declined to discuss Shulkin's future while another told Fox News that the president had confidence in him "at this point in time".
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At the time, he called for the head of the VA to "clean house". Press Secretary Sarah Sanders repeatedly said Trump supported the work Shulkin did as secretary but also said the situation was "under review".
Trump even joked previous year that his signature phrase, "you're fired" would never be used with Shulkin. He oversaw creation of a 24-hour hotline for veteran complaints and improved transparency, posting wait times for medical appointments at each facility and other quality-control measures consistent with many private sector hospitals.
Shulkin's departure from the administration is a stark reversal of fortunes for the VA leader, who served as undersecretary of health in the Obama administration. He set up a data-tracking center at headquarters in an effort to intervene before problems became crises.