Trump to nominate Robert Wilkie for VA secretary: 5 things to know

In his opening remarks at a May 18 prison reform summit, President Donald Trump said he plans to nominate Robert Wilkie to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Here are five things to know about the nomination.

1. Mr. Wilkie has been the acting VA secretary since David Shulkin, MD, left the role. He is also the undersecretary for personnel and readiness in the Defense Department.

2. The nomination came as a surprise. "Acting Secretary Wilkie, who, by the way, has done an incredible job at the VA, and I'll be informing him in a little while — he doesn't know this yet — that we're going to be putting his name up for nomination to be Secretary of the Veterans Administration," President Trump said. "I'm sorry that I ruined the surprise."

3. Mr. Wilkie served in the Navy as an intelligence officer and currently is a reserve officer in the Air Force, assigned to the Office of the Chief of Staff. From 2005 to 2009, he served as assistant secretary of defense for Defense Secretaries Robert Gates and Donald Rumsfeld. He has also served as an adviser to various senators.

4. His views on privatizing the VA are unknown, according to CNN. However, in his short tenure as acting secretary, Mr. Wilkie has overseen the closure of the $10 billion, 10-year VA-Cerner deal and has been working with VA employees to stabilize the agency, according to CNN.

5. Mr. Wilkie's appointment as acting secretary has been met with mixed reactions. While some veterans groups support him, others believe Deputy Secretary Thomas Bowman was next in the chain of command. Two left-leaning advocacy groups have sued the White House, claiming President Trump violated federal law in passing over Mr. Bowman for the acting secretary position, according to the Army Times. The case hinges on whether Dr. Shulkin stepped down from his role independently or if he was fired. If he resigned, as the White House has reported, then President Trump did not violate the law. Mr. Bowman's policy views have reportedly clashed with those of the White House, according to the report.

 

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