Panel delays hearing on Trump nominee to head VA

Register now

A Senate hearing to consider the nomination of Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, MD, to serve as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, has been postponed because of undisclosed allegations about the nominee.

The hearing was scheduled for Wednesday. However, U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, made the announcement about the postponement on Tuesday.

“The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is postponing the hearing to consider the nominee to be secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in light of new information presented to the committee,” said Isakson and Tester in joint written statement.

The senators did not disclose the substance of the new information. However, The New York Times reported that Jackson “oversaw a hostile work environment as the White House physician and allowed the overprescribing of drugs.”

“We take very seriously our constitutional duty to thoroughly and carefully vet each nominee sent to the Senate for confirmation,” the senators added. “We will continue looking into these serious allegations and have requested additional information from the White House to enable the committee to conduct a full review.”

Isakson and Tester sent a letter to President Trump on Tuesday requesting all documentation relating to Jackson’s service in the White House Medical Unit and as physician to the president.

The news comes in the wake of losses of key VA leadership. David Shulkin, MD, was recently ousted by Trump as secretary of the agency, and acting chief information officer Scott Blackburn also recently resigned from his position.

Also See: Resignation of VA’s acting CIO casts doubt on EHR efforts

Rear Admiral Jackson is an active duty Navy physician who was appointed as physician to the president by President Obama in 2013 and has served on the White House medical team since 2006. Trump’s decision to nominate Jackson has been criticized by veterans groups.

AMVETS, the congressionally chartered veterans service organization, expressed its deep concerns regarding Trump’s nomination of Jackson, which the group contends is the latest in an “excruciating series of recent events” that continue to undermine the best interests of veterans.

“No matter whether these allegations against Dr. Jackson prove true or false, whether they continue to delay his confirmation indefinitely or sink it altogether, it’s the latest in a chain of unforced errors for which veterans are continuing to pay the price,” said AMVETS Executive Director Joe Chenelly in a written statement. “It was a mistake to fire David Shulkin to start, neutralizing the progress he was making at VA for those who depend on it with their lives. That mistake hurt veterans and continues to work against the Administration.

“Further depriving the VA of any continuity of leadership by inexplicably passing over a competent, experienced and proven deputy VA secretary was also a confusing and troubling move that defies veterans’ best interests,” added Chenelly. “There is also nothing but downside for veterans in prolonging the uncertain period between permanent secretaries. Veterans deserve and need a stable VA with leaders properly vetted and confirmed.”

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.