President Trump presented his 2017 budget to Congress back in May. This budget calls for significant increases in spending, but also contains some troubling cuts. One the more significant proposed cuts would have resulted in the loss of more than $3 billion to veterans suffering from service connected disabilities that are so severe they are unable to maintain employment. Following substantial pressure for veterans groups, Secretary of the VA David Shulkin -- originally a proponent of the measure -- reversed course on the proposal late last month.
"The irony is that when I was, before I got into government, I used to say to my staff when I ran hospitals, what's it going to take, an act of congress?' These are the words stated by David J. Shulkin, M.D. moments after having been sworn in as the ninth Secretary of the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Given the ongoing troubles that have been occurring in the VA system, his words may turn out to be much more than tongue-in-cheek humor.
Although he is a board-certified internist, Secretary Shulkin has served in executive capacities for numerous private health care institutions, including Morristown Medical Center, Goryeb Children's Hospital, Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute, and the Atlantic Health System Accountable Care Organization. Secretary Shulkin is not new to the VA, having served most recently as the VA's Under Secretary of Health. The VHA came under scrutiny recently when it was revealed that, under Shulkin's watch, it had been maintaining rating systems for its hospitals and clinics that were kept secret from the public as well as from veterans receiving treatment through the VA. Notwithstanding this criticism, some of which was leveled by members of congress, Shulkin's appointment was unanimously approved by the Senate.
Secretary Shulkin inherits the nation's youngest and second-largest cabinet-level department, from former Secretary Robert McDonald. The VA system of hospitals and clinics constitutes the largest integrated health care system in the United States.