Trump Announces David Shulkin as Pick for Secretary of Veterans Affairs
National Public Radio, by Camila Domonoske, January 11, 2017
President-elect Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he plans to nominate David Shulkin to be his Secretary of Veterans Affairs, a position that requires Senate confirmation. Shulkin is currently the under secretary for health at the VA, which means he runs the Veterans Health Administration. He was nominated for that position by President Obama in March 2015 and confirmed by the Senate that June.
Shulkin’s official bio says he is a physician — a board-certified internist — and was the chief executive or chief medical officer of several hospitals and hospital systems. He’s also an entrepreneur who founded a health care information company called DoctorQuality. Notably, he’s not a veteran. “I have no doubt Dr. Shulkin will be able to lead the turnaround our Department of Veterans Affairs needs,” Trump said in a statement following the announcement. “Dr. Shulkin has the experience and the vision to ensure we will meet the healthcare needs of every veteran.”
As the head of the Veterans Health Administration, Shulkin spoke with NPR about the experiences of veterans left waiting months for treatment under the program. “When I hear stories like that, it’s completely unacceptable,” he told NPR. “The first responsibility that we have to our veterans is to make sure those that need urgent care are getting care on time.
“This is a different VA. We’ve brought in people from the outside who have private sector experience. And what we’re saying is that we have to do business differently. … We know how to make this program work better.”
Trump considered a series of possible VA secretaries before deciding on Shulkin; he interviewed more than 100 candidates.
VA Secretary Robert McDonald’s advice to vets
Military Times, by: George Altman, January 10, 2017
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Outgoing Veterans Affairs Department Secretary Robert McDonald said he looks forward to being able to “go to the pool and drink pina coladas” once his time leading the department comes to an end.
But before the incoming Trump administration takes over, McDonald offered attendees of the Student Veterans of America National Conference some advice and perspective.
“In my mind, there is no single human endeavor that leads to greater transformation than education,” McDonald said.
The secretary also recommended that the student veterans look for careers that continue the service that they began in uniform.
“What more important blessing could there be than to be able to have a positive impact on the life of another person? What a positive impact you can have.”
McDonald said he became the VA secretary to do just that. But he expressed frustration with the politics inherent in the role.
“When I listen to the political dialogue, I sometimes get incensed,” he said. “Should we privatize the VA, you know, so the healthcare companies of America can make more money? Should we ask veterans to go to private sector doctors who may not know anything about post-traumatic stress?”
McDonald dedicated a large section of his speech to giving veterans four pieces of advice:
- Consider your life’s purpose: “Please think about what your purpose is in life, and you will find that if you do that, it will animate the rest of your life,” McDonald said. He added that it’s OK to change your mind a few times. “But you’re living your life every single day, wouldn’t it be good to lead it in a certain direction, toward purpose?”
- Set big goals: “As you think about your purpose, think about your goal and make sure your goal is big enough to overcome all your fears,” he said. McDonald recalled how he was unable to become an Eagle Scout because he was afraid to swim. But he passed several much more difficult swimming tests while attending West Point. “Why? Because I had a goal that was bigger than my fear.”
- Work for an organization that shares your values and purpose: “Find a company that has a purpose congruent with your own,” McDonald said. “That’s where you’re going to be spending the majority of your waking hours, and you want to make sure you’re achieving your personal purpose, while also achieving the corporate purpose.”
- Never stop learning: “I’ll tell you a secret, but you’ve got to promise me you’ll keep it secret: What differentiates those who succeed in business … is maintaining that ability to learn. You’ve got to learn new things all the time,” McDonald said. The most important things students learn in school aren’t any particular facts or equations. It’s how to learn. And learning should not stop once you graduate, he added. “Things are going to change and you need to change too, and the only way to do that is to continue learning.”