Amid concerns that his administration wants to move more aggressively to privatize the healthcare system that provides for the nation’s active and retired military personnel, President Donald Trump took to Twitter later Wednesday afternoon and announced—following weeks of speculation that he was itching to do so—the ouster of Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin.
In Shulkin’s place, Trump also announced he was nominating Admiral Ronny L. Jackson, MD—who has been serving as the president’s personal physician—to replace him.
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
Earlier this week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) met the widespread rumors that Shulkin would soon be gone by warning that his departure could be a signal of Trump’s growing impatient with his unmet goal of privatizing the VA.
“The struggle at the Veterans Administration is about Trump’s desire to privatize the VA and his belief that Secretary David Shulkin is not moving fast enough in that direction,” Sanders said on Sunday. “The veterans organizations, representing millions of those who put their lives on the line to defend us, want us to strengthen the VA, not dismember it. The Senate Veterans Committee, on which I serve, must stand with the veterans of our country and oppose all efforts to privatize the VA.”
Following Wednesday’s announcement, Sanders tweeted:
Every major veterans’ organization in this country vigorously opposes the privatization of the VA. I stand with them. The Veterans Affairs Committee should not approve any nominee for secretary who supports the privatization of the VA. https://t.co/57GmVvdVlm
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) March 28, 2018
Not a surprise, as CBS News reporting notes, Shulkin had been under fire for “ethics violations” and the end of his tenure was widely predicted:
“I don’t think people are surprised, but people are taken aback yet again that the president has once again fired another cabinet secretary via Twitter,” @JaxAlemany said. “But this was a long time coming. Secretary Shulkin was under fire for ethics violations.” pic.twitter.com/BZZTjO6mQx
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 28, 2018
Veterans advocates critical of Trump characterized the choice of Jackson to Shulkin as a betrayal:
This is such an insult to all veterans: Putting a guy with no relevant experience in charge of a $200 billion organization with 330,000 employees serving 22 million customers https://t.co/hAu6WnvXRN
— Brandon Friedman (@BFriedmanDC) March 28, 2018
Others just chalked it up to the latest in a series of cabinet-level departures and high-profile ousters from the president’s inner circle in recent weeks—a signature feature of his overall presidency: