President Donald Trump ousted Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin on Wednesday. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo
March 28 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he is replacing Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin after weeks of speculation the embattled VA chief would be the next Cabinet member to be ousted.
The president made the announcement of his new VA pic Wednesday evening on Twitter.
"I am pleased to announce that I intend to nominate highly respected Admiral Ronny L. Jackson, MD, as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs," he wrote. "In the interim, Hon. Robert Wilkie of [the Department of Defense] will serve as Acting Secretary. I am thankful for Dr. David Shulkin's service to our country and to our GREAT VETERANS!"
Earlier this month, Shulkin faced rumors Trump planned to fire him after the departure of a number of other administration and White House officials like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Communications Director Hope Hicks.
On March 15, Shulkin said he was eager to get the VA Department back on track in the wake of the speculation.
"I've publicly acknowledged that the distraction that has happened that you've talked about is something that I deeply regret," he told a House Appropriations Committee subpanel. "I've come here for one reason, and that's to improve the lives of veterans, and that's what I'm focused solely on doing."
Trump issued a statement Wednesday evening saying he's "grateful for his service."
"I appreciate the work of Dr. David Shulkin and the many great things we did together at Veterans Affairs, including the VA Accountability Act that he was helpful in getting passed," the president said.
Jackson is the Navy physician who gave Trump his annual physical in January; he declared the president "fit for duty" and that he could improve his diet and exercise level. President Barack Obama appointed Jackson as physician to the president in 2013.
Last week, Trump nominated Jackson for a military promotion.
"Admiral Jackson is highly trained and qualified and as a service member himself, he has seen firsthand the tremendous sacrifice our veterans make and has a deep appreciation for the debt our great country owes them," Trump said in a statement.
Shulkin's dismissal comes a month after the Veterans Affairs Inspector General determined his chief of staff altered an email last year to get European travel expenses paid for the secretary and his wife.
The 84-page IG report was a response to an anonymous complaint filed with the Office of Inspector General Michael J. Missal -- alleging that chief of staff Viveca Wright Simpson altered the email to use more than $4,000 in taxpayer funds for the Shulkins' travel.
The complaint states that Shulkin and other senior leaders used VA funds to take the official July 2017 trip that was more for personal than business.
The 11-day trip taken by Shulkin, his wife, senior VA leaders and a six-member security detail included two extensive travel days and three-and-a-half days of events. It cost $122,334.