Uncertainty at VA after nominee withdraws

With White House physician Adm. Ronny Jackson's withdrawal, VA watchers are wondering what's next for the agency and its planned $16 billion health IT modernization project.

Dr. Ronny Jackson briefs the press on President Trump's health Jan. 16, 2018
 

White House physician Adm. Ronny Jackson briefs the press on President Trump's health Jan. 16, 2018.


Adm. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician nominated to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, withdrew his name from consideration after multiple reports emerged of behavior and management problems.

The allegations included crashing a government vehicle after a boozy Secret Service party, pounding on the hotel door of a female colleague on an overseas presidential trip during the Obama administration, drinking on duty and creating a hostile work environment.

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee probe led by ranking member Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) reportedly heard from 23 individuals raising concerns about Jackson's fitness.

Jackson thanked Trump for the opportunity to serve in VA and said the allegations, which he denied, had become a distraction.

"The allegations against me are completely false and fabricated. If they had any merit, I would not have been selected, promoted and entrusted to serve in such a sensitive and important role as physician to three presidents over the past 12 years," Jackson said.

Jackson was a tough sell to lead the 370,000 person, $200 billion agency under the best of circumstances, given his lack of experience managing large organizations.

"All of us had questions before any of these recent allegations just on experience and qualifications," said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) in a Politico article published a day before Jackson withdrew.

The withdrawal leaves Trump without a candidate to lead the VA, and leaves agency watchers wondering about the fate of the promised $16 billion electronic health record modernization upgrade promised by ousted VA Secretary David Shulkin.

The agency also lacks Senate-confirmed leaders at many of its top posts, including the top technology job, which is currently being filled on an acting basis by a former Trump campaign staffer who is himself being sued by a former colleague for harassment and discrimination.

"President Trump's firing of Dr. David Shulkin created needless chaos and uncertainty at VA, and his rash decision to replace Dr. Shulkin with someone so clearly unprepared for the job only made the problem worse," said Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who is herself a disabled veteran and former VA executive.

As the Jackson nomination foundered on April 25, VA press secretary Curt Cashour laid out the agency's current priorities in a news release that looked to project a can-do attitude and demonstrate strides being made under acting agency head Robert Wilkie, who has been detailed from his Defense Department post of undersecretary for personnel and readiness.

"Under VA's new leadership, which is now firmly aligned with President Trump and his priorities, the department’s operations have improved in many ways," the release stated. "In a number of cases, employees who were wedded to the status quo and not on board with this administration's policies or pace of change have now departed VA."

The release listed a "main goal" of restoring "regular order" at the agency "by working closely with the White House to implement the president's priorities for VA."

VA under Wilkie's leadership is looking to push for legislation to expand and reform the program that allows vets to receive care outside agency facilities and to "finalize a decision on the department's health record modernization."

Asked by FCW whether the language meant that there was a chance VA would not sign a sole-source deal with Cerner to obtain the same medical records software that is being onboarded by DOD, Cashour said, "VA doesn't typically comment on ongoing contract negotiations."

Former acting VA CIO Scott Blackburn told attendees at a tech conference that he expected the contract to eventually get signed. Two other former high-ranking tech officials contacted by FCW were split on whether the deal ever gets done.

Congress appears to be behind the plan to shift VA from its homegrown Vista record to a commercial system. Congress appropriated $1.2 billion in a special budget line to support electronic health record modernization in fiscal year 2018. The agency controls the funding for three years. The same funding level was proposed in the 2019 appropriations bill, which was released April 25.

There's no immediate frontrunner for the top VA job. Wilkie is said by VA insiders to be lobbying for the post. Current House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) is another possibility. Retired HVAC chairman Jeff Miller, currently a lobbyist on defense and veterans issues in Washington, D.C., was considered a finalist for the post before the unexpected pick of Shulkin, an Obama-administration holdover.

President Donald Trump, on an April 26 call to the show "Fox & Friends," said he had a nominee in mind. He didn't name his choice, but said "it will be somebody with political capability."

Trump also complained about the allegations of misconduct that led to Jackson's withdrawal.

"These are all false accusations," he said. "These are false. They're trying to destroy a man."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) signaled that he was looking for the next VA head to have management experience.

"The VA's problems are management problems and we need someone at the helm with the experience and know-how to fix them," Schumer said.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.