March 15, 2018

Firing VA Secretary David Shulkin Is a Bad Idea

He’s accomplishing a lot of good for America’s veterans—and for Trump.

By Phillip Carter

Dr. David Shulkin, the current secretary of veterans affairs and the only Democrat in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, has done fairly well running the VA. At a signing ceremony for veterans legislation in June, Trump said of Shulkin, “We’ll never have to use those words [‘You’re fired’] on our David.”

Eight months later, that declaration may prove ironic. Fissures have emerged and deepened between Shulkin and the president’s political allies over what, exactly, the VA should be doing. On top of this, two relatively minor scandals involving Shulkin have blown up his tenure and stalled major reform. Now, Shulkin faces conflict on three overlapping fronts, leaving him at the precipice of being fired and replaced by a closer Trump ally as the administration seeks to reduce the chaos in its Cabinet.

The first battle Shulkin is fighting has deep roots in veterans population demographics and the evolution of VA benefits over the past several decades. From the time they join up to their moment of discharge, service members belong to the Department of Defense. After that, they become eligible for a broad array of veterans programs that are administered by the VA’s three large administrations: health, benefits, and cemeteries. These programs have evolved from stingy pensions for seriously disabled veterans after the Revolution to the generous, comprehensive system of health care, disability compensation, and economic programs that exists today. All eligible veterans—meaning primarily those who serve on active duty and leave with an honorable discharge—can avail themselves of these benefits, not just combat veterans or those who were wounded in the line of duty.

Read the full op-ed on Slate.

  • Commentary
    • Lawfare
    • June 19, 2022
    Overturning Roe: What Might This Mean for Military Culture?

    With the repeal of Roe, women stationed in states that either have a trigger law or are poised to enact more stringent abortion bans will be faced with sharp reductions in the...

    By Dr. Kyleanne Hunter

  • Commentary
    • June 7, 2022
    Sharper: Pride in National Security

    In order for the United States to maintain its strategic advantage, the national security community must be able to access the nation's top talent and draw from their strength...

    By Anna Pederson, Nathalie Grogan & Katherine L. Kuzminski

  • Commentary
    • RealClearDefense
    • May 3, 2022
    The USO, Enduring Family Support, and How the DoD Budget Should Change

    Family support and quality of life is a key factor for military retention....

    By Lt Col Gabe S. Arrington & Nathalie Grogan

  • Podcast
    • April 19, 2022
    To Appropriations and Beyond!

    When Congress created Space Force back in 2019, it looked to some like a wild idea from President Trump had just gone and become the sixth branch of the armed forces. But the ...

    By Katherine L. Kuzminski

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia