The scandalous withdrawal of VA secretary nominee Adm. Ronny Jackson on Thursday was just the latest episode in a long stretch of chaos at the Department of Veterans Affairs. If President Trump wants to end the turmoil at the VA and allow the department to confront its critical problems, he will need to make a careful choice in his next nominee. The VA deserves a competent and experienced leader, with the policy background and management ability to steer it through these troubled times.
The current upheaval at the VA began last month when the president removed Secretary David Shulkin following the revelation of his own controversies, and replaced him for the short term with the barely confirmed DoD Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness, Robert Wilkie. But the head-spinning pace of change at the VA extends back over the past four years, as five different people have held the top position at the department in either an acting or permanent capacity since President Obama’s firing of retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki in 2014. Each of these VA leaders presided over periods of intense scrutiny and infighting, and achieved varying levels of success in attempting to reform the relatively new department—which has existed as a Cabinet-level agency only since 1989.
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