Trump taps Obama official as VA secretary

David Shulkin, Under Secretary of Health for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, waves to a reporter after meeting in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., January 9, 2017. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)
David Shulkin, Under Secretary of Health for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, waves to a reporter after meeting in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., January 9, 2017. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he has tapped David Shulkin, a physician who is currently serving in the Obama administration as VA undersecretary, to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The decision ends a protracted search for a secretary for the second-largest federal agency and makes Shulkin the first VA leader who is not a veteran.

Shulkin was confirmed unanimously for the post in June 2015 — assuring that he should breeze through the Senate confirmation process.

Shulkin is an internist who has led the sprawling veterans health system, the country’s largest, since last year. In keeping Shulkin, Trump passed over the current secretary, Robert McDonald, a Republican appointed by President Barack Obama in 2014 to lead the agency after a scandal over fudged wait times for medical appointments. The large veterans service organizations had pushed Trump to keep McDonald in the job.

It is unclear how Shulkin will approach Trump’s biggest priority for veterans: A significant expansion of VA medical care to private doctors outside the system.

During his campaign, Trump called VA a “broken” system that treats illegal immigrants “better than our vets.”

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