ProPublica: Shulkin pushed out of VA after Cerner EHR clash with Trump's 'Mar-a-Lago Crowd'

Clashes between former VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD, and President Donald Trump insiders who are secretly shaping the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs helped lead to Dr. Shulkin's ouster, according to a ProPublica investigation.

The informal council at Mar-a-Lago — President Trump's private club in Palm Beach, Fla. — which many VA insiders reportedly call "the Mar-a-Lago Crowd," is led by Ike Perlmutter, a longtime acquaintance of President Trump and chairman of Marvel Entertainment. The other two members are Bruce Moskowitz, MD, a physician practicing in Palm Beach, and Marc Sherman, a lawyer.

ProPublica reviewed documents obtained through the federal Freedom of Information Act and conducted interviews with former administration officials for its investigation. The documents detail the Mar-a-Lago Crowd speaking with VA staff daily regarding policy and personnel decisions.

Former administration officials told ProPublica that VA officials who clashed with the Mar-A-Lago Crowd were pushed out, including Dr. Shulkin, who left the agency in March.

The Mar-a-Lago Crowd reportedly grew frustrated with Dr. Shulkin after disagreeing on various issues, according to ProPublica. One of the key clashes centered on Dr. Shulkin's plan to award Cerner an estimated $10 billion contract to implement the VA's systemwide EHR.

Dr. Moskowitz, however, had used a Cerner EHR and didn't like it, according to ProPublica. One problem was that the software didn't offer voice recognition, Dr. Moskowitz complained. Newer versions of Cerner's EHR do offer voice recognition, ProPublica noted. The Mar-a-Lago Crowd repeatedly asked Dr. Shulkin to vet the contract more thoroughly.

Other factors contributed to Dr. Shulkin's removal from the VA, including a VA Office of the Inspector General report that found he had improperly accepted tickets to the Wimbledon tennis tournament during a trip to Europe.

However, three former officials told ProPublica that discord between Dr. Shulkin and the Mar-a-Lago Crowd over the Cerner contract ultimately led to his downfall.

Mr. Perlmutter, Dr. Moskowitz and Mr. Sherman — who declined to be interviewed — disagreed with the allegation in a joint statement to ProPublica: "Any decisions of the agency or the president … as well as the timing of any agency decisions, were independent of our contacts with the VA."

Dr. Shulkin did not respond to ProPublica's request for comment.

VA spokesperson Curt Cashour and White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters also declined to answer questions, though they offered statements to the publication. To read ProPublica's investigation, click here.

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