- Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is locked in a power struggle at the VA that is “killing the agency.”
- Shulkin and senior staff have significant disagreements over how to proceed with President Donald Trump’s plan to give veterans the right to choose private sector doctors.
- The news comes after Shulkin was found to have used tax payer funds for a trip to Europe and for improperly accepting gifts.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin has posted an armed guard outside his office as the department falls into a power struggle that is “killing the agency,” The Washington Post reports.
VA appointees described the work environment as “toxic” and there have been reports of a coup within the agency, according to The Post, which interviewed 16 administration officials and other observers of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Shulkin has reportedly taken moves that look like he is increasingly worried about his future in President Donald Trump’s administration.
He has canceled meetings with Trump appointees, revoked access for several people he believes tried to oust him from his office, and has met with Ike Perlmutter – an advisor to Trump on veterans issues – to get the administration’s backing to fire people he believes are “obstacles to further changes.”
Shulkin has also reportedly posted an armed guard outside his office, most likely because of a combination of threats from angry veterans upset over recent scandals and an erosion of trust within his senior staff.
The VA is the second-largest bureaucracy, employing 360,000 people and accounting for $186 billion annually. The department is currently under a large reform project at Trump’s direction to shift more healthcare for veterans to private sector doctors.
But the reform efforts are being slowed down due to infighting and disagreements between Shulkin and VA staff members. The rivalry has gotten so bad, that “things have come to a grinding halt” and “nobody trusts each other,” a senior manager told The Post.
Shulkin has also recently been involved in a number of scandals. Last month, an inspector general investigation showed that he used $122,000 of taxpayer money on a trip to Europe with his wife. The investigation also claimed that he improperly accepted tickets to the Wimbledon tennis tournament.