Veterans Affairs

Obama appointee to lead VA under Trump

David Shulkin USH VA 

Veterans Affairs Undersecretary for Health David Shulkin is the president-elect's choice to lead the agency.

Dr. David Shulkin, currently under secretary of health at the Department of Veterans Affairs, has been tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to lead the agency.

Shulkin, an appointee of President Barack Obama, was confirmed as the head of VA's health delivery system on June 23, 2015 on a voice vote. While Shulkin is not himself a veteran, he was born on an Army base in Highland Park, Ill., according to his statement at his confirmation hearing, where his father worked caring for military personnel. During his medical training, he worked at VA medical centers in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and West Haven, Conn.

"President-elect Trump's commitment to caring for our veterans is unquestionable and he is eager to support the best practices for care and provide our Veterans Affairs' teams with the resources they need to improve health outcomes," Shulkin said in a statement put out by the transition's communication office. "We are both eager to begin reforming the areas in our Veterans Affairs system that need critical attention, and do it in a swift, thoughtful and responsible way."

"I have no doubt Dr. Shulkin will be able to lead the turnaround our Department of Veterans Affairs needs. His sole mandate will be to serve our veterans and restore the level of care we owe to our brave men and women in the military," Trump said.

Shulkin said in his confirmation hearing that he was pleased with the reforms undertaken by current VA Secretary Robert McDonald, and he supported legislation that extended the private-sector options of VA patients.

"The Blue Print for Excellence to improve VA is a well thought out and comprehensive plan. The Choice Plan and the ability to offer seamless care between VA and the DOD and care in the private sector are also critical and efforts I would fully support," he said.

Throughout his tenure, Shulkin has worked closely with VA CIO LaVerne Council on modernizing health technology at the agency. They have pioneered a digital health platform that is designed to make VA health data more accessible and usable across its enterprise and interoperable with military and private-sector providers. The effort is also designed to makes heath data more open to veterans and give veterans the ability to connect data from wearables to their health records.

At a June 24 hearing, Shulkin said that the digital health platform was not dependent on any single electronic health record, setting the stage for a public discussion of the future of Vista, the VA's home-grown open-source health care system. The next iteration of Vista is scheduled for delivery in 2018.

Shulkin and Council appeared jointly at several hearings to sell lawmakers on the digital health platform and try to allay widespread concerns about deficiencies of Vista. Their partnership raises the question of whether Council, also a political appointee, could be asked to remain at the VA. An email to the Office of Information and Technology was not immediately answered.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the About.com online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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Reader comments

Wed, Feb 1, 2017 IT Victim The basement (where IT is stuck)

Since this is a IT site, I'll leave this here, Mr. Shulkin went to the White House to ensure 37,000 of the 44,000 VA vacancies wouldn't be hindered by the freeze, but none of the huge list of exemptions was in IT. It goes without saying that Mr. Shulkin either has no clue about the relationship of IT and the delivery of care, or doesn't care. It's pretty simple, we're not the ones delivering the care, but I'll bet we'll be the ones blamed when technology becomes an even bigger problem with the delivery of care as our already understaffed numbers become even more diluted. IT is unquestionably the least appreciated discipline in all of VA and it comes from very weak leadership and a mission (CRISP) that's not in line with the business (no matter what people say when they're at the podium).

Fri, Jan 13, 2017

The t transition vetters asked him many questions, including how he will deal with evident incompetence in the agency's IT acquisition and management divisions. Sources suggest he was concerned but not full of ideas, as this is not a core expertise. He has other strengths.

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