It’s been an awkwardly long time coming, but as of yesterday afternoon embattled Veterans Affairs secretary David Shulkin is out of a job. The news comes after a month and a half of uncertainty that began when a scathing inspector general report detailed “serious derelictions” in expensing a Europe trip last summer. And then there were all the accusations and counter accusations of political infighting and rumors of possible replacements — at least all that is over:
….In the interim, Hon. Robert Wilkie of DOD will serve as Acting Secretary. I am thankful for Dr. David Shulkin’s service to our country and to our GREAT VETERANS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2018
Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the president’s appointed White House physician, who drew national attention when he complimented President Trump on his “incredibly good genes,” has been tapped to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs — pending approval by the Senate. Given that this leadership post has been described as “one of the most difficult jobs in government” — which has stymied generals, CEOs and health care executives — we thought it was time to give you a rundown of what’s in store for the next officeholder, by the numbers:
More than 1,243 health care facilities. These Veterans Health Administration facilities include 170 VA Medical Centers, and 1,063 outpatient sites — making it the largest health care system in the United States.
9,000,000 veterans. That’s the number who receive medical care from VA, and many of these patients are older and suffer from multiple traumas and injuries that require specialized care: amputations, traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, and as of 2013, half of all VA patients suffer from chronic pain, to name just a few. And as many as 2 million patients receive in-facility care, according to an American Legion statement.
20,000,000 veterans in the United States… we think. There could be far more veterans than we realize, since an individual’s military history isn’t tracked by the census bureau, which is a concern since the VA relies on an accurate headcount of its target population to get a feel for the size and scope of the services it needs to provide.
$10,000,000,000 contract for Electronic Health Records. A long-term plan to modernize the VA’s health records system could be in jeopardy, with Shulkin’s dismissal coming just as the VA was set to finalize the acquisition of a new electronic health record system.
2nd largest federal agency. The only one bigger is the Department of Defense.
$186,000,000,000 budget for fiscal year 2018.
360,000 employees spread across three separate administrations within the department; the Veterans Health Administration, Veterans Benefit Administration, and the National Cemetery Administration.
23 years active duty. Jackson’s Navy career began in 1995, and includes postings as an instructor, diving medical officer, diving safety officer, from Panama City, Florida Sigonella, Italy, to Norfolk, Virginia. By 2005 he deployed to Taqaddum, Iraq as part of a Surgical Shock Trauma platoon.
3 presidents. While still in Iraq in 2006, Jackson was selected as a White House physician and served as the supervising physician for the Camp David Presidential Retreat under the George W. Bush administration. Later he led the White House Medical Unit as its director and was the appointed White House physician for Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
Soon to be 7 VA secretaries in 4 years. The department has been beset by turmoil and scandal. Eric Shinseki resigned from his post as VA chief following the 2014 wait-list scandal the department. Since then, the VA has gone through three sitting secretaries, and is on its third acting secretary, with Robert Wilkie, previously the Pentagon’s undersecretary of personnel and readiness, now tasked as the interim chief until Shulkin’s replacement is approved by the Senate.