(October 17, 2017)

 

In order to further improve the lines of communication and to respond to the concerns between the National VA Council and you our members, I have established a National VA Council Briefing. This NVAC Briefing will bring you the latest news and developments within DVA and provide you with the current status of issues this Council is currently addressing. I believe that this NVAC Briefing will greatly enhance the way in which we communicate and the way in which we share new information, keeping you better informed.

 

Alma L. Lee

National VA Council, President

 

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In This Briefing: “He got his accountability bill  for VA to fire at will, now he wants to spread it to other agencies”
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Veterans Affairs Head Interviews for Health and Human Services Post

David Shulkin is one the main contenders for position left vacant by Tom Price’s resignation

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin speaks in Bedminster, N.J., in August.PHOTO: JIM WATSON/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY

David Shulkin, the current U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs and a holdover from the Obama administration, has been interviewed by the White House for the top job at Health and Human Services, according to sources familiar with the meetings.

He is one of a number of leading contenders for the position, which has been vacant since late September when former HHS Secretary Tom Price resigned over criticism of his use of private and military planes.

Other potential candidates include  Seema Verma, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, according to a White House official. Others who also may be in the running are former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and John Fleming, currently HHS’s deputy assistant secretary for health technology reform.

Representatives from multiple veteran advocacy groups said rumors of Dr. Shulkin’s interest in switching agencies has been known among some in the community. A VA spokeswoman would neither confirm nor deny Dr. Shulkin’s interview, and a spokesman referred all questions about cabinet-level positions to the White House.

The White House official said that Dr. Shulkin has “made his case” for becoming the next department secretary. Working against him might be the success he has had at the VA, this person said. Both Dr. Shulkin and Ms. Verma have done well in their present positions—a reason President Donald Trump may have no wish to move them, the official said.

“Sometimes you promote someone who’s doing a great job,” the official said. “On the other hand, these are two highly functioning, effective officials doing a good job where they are. And they’re very little trouble.”

Dr. Shulkin, a physician, was unanimously confirmed by the Senatefor his current position and has extensive experience in health-care management.

He is a holdover from former President Barack Obama’s administration, and was first appointed by Mr. Obama to be the head of the VA’s health-care arm under then-Secretary Robert McDonald. He served in that role for more than a year before being tapped for the top job at the department by Mr. Trump.

The White House interview indicates Mr. Trump may be moving quickly to fill the position as he undertakes a sweeping administrative effort to roll back the Affordable Care Act. The position oversees a $1 trillion agency that administers Medicare, Medicaid and implementation of the health law.

Dr. Shulkin’s short tenure has helped push through a number of popular measures including expanding the GI Bill and employee-accountability measures, which have drawn bipartisan praise in Congress and from influential veteran advocacy groups.

While lawmakers from both parties have lauded Dr. Shulkin’s overall performance, he has also drawn some criticism from the VA’s major union and from some veterans groups that say he has put too much focus on punishing workers and moved the department toward more use of private-sector doctors. He also recently has been ensnared in questions about his official travel, prompting the department’s inspector general to look into the matter.

Legislators and veterans groups also await his promised unveiling of plans to address the department’s use of private-sector care. It could lead to a fight in Congress over the department’s future and whether it will move toward more private-sector reliance.

Before joining the VA, Dr. Shulkin served in a variety of executive roles in private hospital systems, including as chief executive of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

Write to Stephanie Armour at stephanie.armour@wsj.com, Ben Kesling at benjamin.kesling@wsj.com and Peter Nicholas at peter.nicholas@wsj.com

Appeared in the October 14, 2017, print edition as ‘Secretary Of the VA Is Weighed For HHS.’

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