President Trump announced Friday that he’s nominating Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie to lead the massive and embattled agency.
The president made the announcement during remarks at a summit on prison reform at the White House.
He said he was surprising Wilkie, and that his nominee didn’t yet know about his decision.
The decision follows a tumultuous selection process.
Trump had previously nominated White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson for the job, but he withdrew last month amid allegations of drinking on the job and other conduct issues. Jackson largely denied them, but said the issues had become a “distraction.”
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Wilkie is a former Pentagon undersecretary for personnel and readiness. He’s led the agency for two months, ever since Trump fired David Shulkin amid an internal revolt and questions about his compliance with ethics rules.
Wilkie had appeared in the White House press briefing room Thursday to accept a check for the amount of Trump’s first-quarter salary, which he donated to the agency.
As acting VA secretary, Wilkie has sought to rebuild morale at an agency beset with inner turmoil and rebellion over Trump’s push to expand private care.
The VA faces problems demanding immediate attention, including a multibillion dollar revamp of electronic medical records, now in limbo, that members of Congress fear will prove too costly and wasteful, and a budget shortfall in the coming weeks in its private-sector Veterans Choice program. The House is slated to vote on a wide-ranging bill next week that would give veterans more freedom to see doctors outside the VA health system and fill the budget shortfall, a major step toward fulfilling Trump’s promise to expand private care for veterans.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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