David Shulkin ran the nation's largest health system under two presidents. As secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, he oversaw a hospital empire that served nine million veterans and employed 135,000 people.
Under Shulkin's leadership, the VA reduced wait times for health care, improved the appeals process for veterans seeking disability benefits, focused on reducing the number of veteran suicides by providing more mental health services, and helped to reduce unemployment among veterans.
Shulkin, 59, who still lives in Gladwyne, made his then boss, Donald Trump, look good. Shulkin delivered some bipartisan wins while other federal departments were roiled with controversy. But for some political appointees, Shulkin didn't move quickly enough. He wouldn't support their proposal to put all of veterans' health care into the hands of private interests. And according to Shulkin, that sank his career.
The son of a soldier wounded during the Vietnam War, he claims he was born in “khaki diapers.” Now, former Department of Defense under secretary for personnel and readiness Robert Wilkie seems poised to wade into the mess that is the Department of Veterans Affairs — and, if all goes according to plan, restore good order and discipline to the troubled agency.
It’s a brave new world in 2018. President Donald Trump’s administration has been largely characterized by the same freewheeling, no-fucks-given bravado of the 2016 election cycle: Twitter rants are daily fodder for the news cycle, lurid stories of old trysts with adult film stars (somehow) merit the “60 Minutes” treatment, and hardly a week goes by without a cabinet member being fired or humiliated or both.