After Jackson withdraws, Roe says process to nominate VA secretary will be slower

Nathan Baker • Apr 27, 2018 at 11:29 PM

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe said he believes the process to nominate the next Veterans Affairs secretary will be different this time after President Donald Trump’s first nomination, Dr. Ronny Jackson, withdrew his name from consideration after a wave of serious allegations crashed against him.

“This process this time will go slower and more measured,” Roe said Friday during a conference call with Tennessee media outlets. “Probably what you’ll see — if it were me, and I’m not the president and I’m not telling the president what to do — but I’d get my top four or five candidates and I’d just send it to you guys and let you guys do work and vet these names and see what comes to the surface, and I think that’s probably what will happen this time.”

Jackson, the president’s physician, swiftly withdrew his name from consideration for the cabinet position days after current and former colleagues accused him in a memo released by Senate Democrats of creating a hostile work environment, too freely dispensing prescription medication and drinking to excess, sometimes while on the job.

On Thursday, Trump said the allegations were false, and said Jackson’s accusers were “trying to destroy him.”

Roe said he did not have access to the information gathered by senators about Jackson’s past, so he did not know which of the allegations were true and which were untrue.

In Jackson’s defense, the congressman said, “I know you don’t get to be an admiral without being vetted pretty well, you certainly don’t get to be White House physician without being vetted.

“Me personally, if I had been him, I would have done the same thing he did. It became a distraction, and certainly the VA doesn’t need any more distractions right now,” he continued.

The VA is without a secretary after the departure of David Shulkin, who Trump fired last month after an inspector general’s report accused him of improperly accepting gifted tickets to a Wimbledon tennis match and accused members of his staff of altering documents to convince the federal government to pay for his wife’s travel.

Shulkin said his termination was the result of political operatives in the president’s administration who favored the privatization of VA health care, a proposal Shulkin opposed.

Roe floated two names for the VA secretary’s position, former Rep. Jeff Miller and Dr. Toby Cosgrove.

Miller was Roe’s predecessor as chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and announced his retirement from his Florida seat in 2016. Cosgrove recently retired as CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, an Ohio academic hospital, and has twice been considered for the VA secretary job, by Trump in 2016 and former President Barack Obama in 2014.

Roe said he would support either man in the position if one was nominated and confirmed.

Even with the empty position, Roe said the work of his committee will continue.

When Congress returns from next week’s recess, Roe said he expects the committee to finalize a legislative package to expand and fund the Veterans Choices program to allow veterans to seeks care from private physicians, extend a caregiver program to pre-9/11 veterans and commission a multi-year review of the VA’s personnel and physical assets to “marry those up correctly.”

The Korean Peninsula

Roe said he was “cautiously optimistic” that the historic meeting and announced agreement between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would result in a more peaceful peninsula.

Roe served in the United States Army Medical Corps in South Korea in the 1970s, and said the leaders’ declaration to denuclearize was promising.

“I’m encouraged, but I’ve watched this before,” he said. “I’ve watched North Korea promise things, and then they do the Lucy and the football.”

The congressman credited the Trump administration’s recently enacted sanctions against North Korea as helping to facilitate the agreement.

“I would take that as a very positive thing that President Trump has been able to negotiate in the last year or so, and we’ll see how it all plays out over time,” he said.

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