All You Need to Know About Trump’s Pick for VA Secretary, David Shulkin

DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Donald Trump says he plans to nominate David Shulkin, an under secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs under the Obama administration, to lead the agency, which has faced criticism over doctor wait times.

Shulkin, a doctor, would be the first VA secretary in history not to have served in the military. He would also be Trump’s first cabinet nominee who was nominated to a position within the Obama administration.

Here is what you need to know about him:

Name: David J. Shulkin

Age: 57

What He Does Now: Under Secretary for Health for the Department of Veterans Affairs. He was nominated to the position by President Obama in March 2015 and confirmed by the Senate in June 2015. He is the first of Trump’s Cabinet nominees who serves in an Obama appointed position.

What He Used to Do: Before joining the VA, Shulkin was president at Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey from 2010 to 2015. During that time, he also served in several chief executive roles at Goryeb Children’s Hospital, Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute and the Atlantic Health System Accountable Care Organization in New Jersey. Shulkin also served as president and CEO of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City between 2005 and 2009. He founded a healthcare information company called DoctorQuality.

Hometown: Born on an Army base in Highland Park, Illinois.

Family Life: Shulkin is married to Dr. Merle Bari, a dermatologist, who he met while doing his residency at the University of Pittsburgh. Together, they have a daughter, Jennifer, and a son, Daniel.

Education: He received his medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania. He also had an internship at Yale University School of Medicine.

What You Might Not Know About Him: Shulkin is not a veteran, making him the first secretary without military service to head the VA in its history, if confirmed. However, he has a family history of military service and providing military medical care. Both of his grandfathers served in World War I. His father was a psychiatrist who was an Army Captain and his grandfather was chief pharmacist at the VA in Madison, Wisconsin.

What He Has Said/Written About the VA:

ON VETERAN SUICIDE

In a September 2016 op-ed, Shulkin wrote, “Losing even one veteran to suicide is unacceptable, which is why suicide prevention is a top priority at VA.”

VA’S INTERNAL RATING SYSTEM

In December, USA Today made public the VA’s internal ratings of each of its 146 medical centers around the country. Before the ratings were released to the public, patients didn’t have a way they could easily assess performance. Most of the lowest-rated VA hospitals are in Texas and Tennessee, USA Today found.

In a December interview with USA Today, Shulkin cautioned, “My concern is that veterans are going to see that their hospital is a ‘one’ in our star system, assume that’s bad quality and veterans that need care are not going to get care. And they’re going to stay away from hospitals and that’s going to hurt people.”

He also called the rating system an “internal improvement tool” and discouraged using the star ratings as a “ranking tool.”

“It is essentially a system within VA to see who’s improving, who’s getting worse, so we can identify both,” Slulkin told USA Today.

Shulkin also said that since his tenure at the Veterans Health Administration, 120 of the 146 medical centers have made progress, and all but one of the VA’s one-star medical centers have improved.

ON MOVING VETERANS’ CARE TO PRIVATE SECTOR

In response to recommendations that the VA medical centers be shut down and instead have veterans get their care from the private sector, Shulkin told the Daily Press in April, “This would be a terrible mistake, a terrible direction for veterans and for the country, to essentially systematically implement recommendations that would lead to the end of the VA health-care system.”

Shulkin told Philly.com in May 2016 that from his time with the VA, he’s come to realize the agency provides “”a different model of care, which treats the physical along with the psychological, the social, and the economic aspects of health, all of which contribute to the well-being of the patient.”

ON VA WAIT TIMES

In his interview with USA Today in December, Shulkin touted that the number of veterans waiting over a month for urgent care has decreased from 57,000 to 600 since he took office.

In May 2016, Shulkin and the VA proposed giving full practice authority to nurses with advanced training, something doctors pushed back on.

“The purpose of this proposed regulation is to ensure VA has authority to address staffing shortages in the future,” Shulkin said in a statement.

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