AFGE backs Shulkin to head Dept. of Veterans Affairs

WASHINGTON—The Government Employees (AFGE), the largest union at the Department of Veterans Affairs, backs Republican President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Dr. David Shulkin, a non-partisan physician and medical administrator, to head the VA.

“Dr. Shulkin is a strong choice to lead” the agency, said union President J. David Cox. Shulkin right now is the agency’s Under Secretary for Health, and in charge of the VA’s largest department, its extensive health care system.

AFGE has strongly defended the VA health care system from recent right wing attempts — including one by a congressionally mandated board — to privatize it. The right wing used past scandals at the VA, where managers falsified records and denied care to vets, as their hook to try to privatize the system.

AFGE members revealed the misdeeds, often suffering retaliation as a result. The union defended them. At an AFGE-hosted conference of experts on the VA’s future last year, Shulkin praised them. And he detailed VA’s improvements since the revelations occurred.

The department’s top priorities, he said then, are reducing wait times and access problems for veterans, developing relationships with community providers, especially in rural areas far from VA clinics and “repairing the trust of our patients and the public.

“We have a commitment that by the end of this year (2016), there will be same-day access to medical care and mental health care in every (VA) center,” he promised then. Shulkin also pledged to increase monitoring and reporting of follow-up visits vets make, to both clinics and outside providers, to ensure continuing quality care.

Shulkin “has extensive knowledge of the VA and is committed to continuing its reputation as a world-class health care system,” Cox said. “Dr. Shulkin recognizes the VA must continue to improve, and that the answers to its most pressing issues can only be solved with the help of dedicated frontline VA workers.

“Like Dr. Shulkin, we are committed to strengthening the VA. The best way to deliver on our promise to veterans is to invest, fully staff, recruit and retain top-notch talent. Dismantling or privatizing the VA system guarantees substandard care for our nation’s heroes,” Cox said.

Leading veterans groups also endorsed Shulkin for the post, though they had urged Trump to keep the current VA Secretary, former corporate executive Robert McDonald, who put the agency on the reform path. A confirmation hearing for Shulkin has not been scheduled.

Source: PAI