For the first time in its history the Department of Veterans Affairs will be headed by a non-veteran. While speaking at a press conference on Jan. 11, President-elect Donald Trump announced that David Shulkin, the current Under Secretary for Health at the VA, will take over as the department’s head if confirmed.
“One of the commitments I’ve made is that we’re going to straighten out the whole situation for our veterans,” Trump said of the appointment during the press conference. “Our veterans have been treated horribly.”
Shulkin has worked at the VA, the nation’s largest integrated healthcare system with over 1,700 care sites serving 8.7 million veterans a year, since 2015 and comes to the post with extensive experience in the department and in medicine.
The selection of Shulkin comes as a surprise to some, in part because of his civilian background, and due to his tenure under the Obama administration. Shulkin was handpicked by President Barack Obama in March 2015 following the retirement of the previous undersecretary amid the wait time scandal at Phoenix, Arizona VA hospitals.
Shulkin will replace the current secretary of the VA, Robert McDonald, himself an Army veteran.
"He’s fantastic,” Trump said of Shulkin. “He will do a truly great job.”