The president announced on Twitter that he would nominate Rear Adm. Ronny L. Jackson, his personal physician, to replace Shulkin, a physician and former hospital executive who was the sole Obama-era holdover in Trump’s Cabinet. Robert Wilke, who serves as an undersecretary at the Defense Department, will serve as acting secretary.
I am pleased to announce that I intend to nominate highly respected Admiral Ronny L. Jackson, MD, as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2018
Shulkin’s ouster comes amid a broader shake-up that began with Trump’s firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on March 13. The president also has decided to replace his national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, with former U.N. ambassador John Bolton.
Shulkin’s firing had been expected for weeks as the president, who once considered him a favorite grew disenchanted with him after a travel scandal and months of infighting within the senior ranks at the Department of Veterans Affairs spilled into public view.
Shulkin, 58, went public with claims that Trump appointees on his staff were conspiring to have him removed. 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.
The next VA secretary is likely to favor a shift toward more private care, a goal at odds with many of the traditional veterans advocacy groups.
Shulkin was born at the Fort Sheridan U.S. Army base in Highland Park, Illinois, where his father served as an Army psychiatrist. Both of his grandfathers fought in World War I. He received a BA from Hampshire College in 1982, and an MD degree from Medical College of Pennsylvania (which has since merged into Drexel University) in 1986; he then did his medical internship at Yale School of Medicine, and his residency and fellowship in General Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Presbyterian Medical Center. He was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania. He is married to Merle Bari, a dermatologist. His daughter, Jennie, won a gold medal in squash at the 2009 Maccabiah Games. Shulkin is Jewish
Incoming VA secretary Ronny Jackson is a board-certified diplomate of the American Board of Emergency Medicine and is designated as a fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. He currently holds faculty clinical appointments with the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and the Harvard School of Medicine-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Disaster Medicine Fellowship Program.
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