Senators and influential veterans groups are withholding judgment on President Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), a Navy doctor with no experience leading a federal bureaucracy, The Hill reports.
Both the Republican chairman and the Democratic ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said only that they look forward to meeting Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson. Several veterans groups expressed some concern about Jackson’s qualifications, but did not immediately oppose him, saying that questions need to be answered during the confirmation process.
“We look forward to understanding more about the qualifications of Admiral Ronny L. Jackson, MD to helm the VA during this critical time,” Carl Blake, executive director of Paralyzed Veterans of America, said in a statement. “The VA has a broad mission and the secretary must be someone who is eminently qualified to lead the nation’s second largest cabinet agency.”
On Wednesday night, Trump announced on Twitter that he’d tapped Jackson to replace David Shulkin, who fell out of the President’s good graces after turmoil over the direction of private health care for veterans and a scathing inspector general report accusing him of misusing taxpayer dollars on a trip to Europe.
Shulkin’s firing was expected, but Jackson was not among the names circulating as possible replacements. Statements from lawmakers and veterans groups poured in Wednesday night, heavily praising Shulkin for his service at the department, The Hill adds.
When it came to Jackson, though, the statements were generally shorter and more neutral. “I look forward to meeting Admiral Jackson and learning more about him,” Senate Veterans Affairs Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) said in a statement.
In a separate statement, committee ranking member Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) likewise said he looks “forward to meeting Admiral Jackson soon and seeing if he is up to the job.”
Jackson was first thrust into the public spotlight when he gave Trump a clean bill of health in January during a lengthy and unusual press briefing at the White House.
Jackson told reporters that a cognitive test showed “no reason whatsoever to think the President has any issues whatsoever with his thought processes.” He also proclaimed Trump’s “overall health is excellent,” crediting the President’s “good genes” despite a well-known penchant for fast food and lack of exercise, The Hill notes.