Former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin wrote an op-ed late Wednesday in which he blasted the “toxic, chaotic, disrespectful and subversive” environment in Washington which he said made it impossible for him to “accomplish the important work” of his job.
“As I prepare to leave government,” he wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times, “I am struck by a reoccurring thought: It should not be this hard to serve your country.”
Only hours before the op-ed was published, President Donald Trump announced via Twitter that he would replace his VA secretary. In the piece, Shulkin claimed he was “falsely accused of things by people who wanted me out of the way,” even though he maintained that he acted with “the utmost integrity,” CNN writes.
Shulkin further pointed out that he was pushed from his job by those who want to see care for service members privatized, a move that he claims would hurt veterans.
Shulkin’s removal is part of a large shakeup at the highest levels of the administration in recent weeks, Newsweek informs. It has already seen Trump remove Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster.
A nonpartisan veterans’ advocacy group, AMVETS, condemned the high turnover in the Trump administration and said that Shulkin’s removal threatens to undo “hard-fought progress that’s been made so far” to veterans healthcare under his leadership.
“After more than a full year of progress, the VA still faces large and complex challenges that require continuity of experience and capable leadership,” AMVETS said in a statement. “It’s unclear at this point whether President Trump’s nominee would provide the VA either of those things. And any lack of clarity at the VA about its direction and leadership stymies the hard-fought progress that’s been made so far.”
In the NYT op-ed Shulkin also noted that “the private sector, already struggling to provide adequate access to care in many communities, is ill-prepared to handle the number and complexity of patients that would come from closing or downsizing VA hospitals and clinics.”
In his tweet, President Trump announced that Admiral Ronny L. Jackson, MD, a Navy officer, will take Shulkin’s place.