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Outgoing VA secretary David Shulkin blasts Washington culture in NYT op-ed

David Shulkin (left).
David Shulkin (left). (MICHAEL REYNOLDS/POOL/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Just hours after David Shulkin became the latest departure from the tumultuous Trump administration, the outgoing Department of Veterans Affairs secretary wrote a New York Times op-ed slamming the culture of Washington, D.C., and suggesting his ouster was the result of political forces in the Trump White House trying to get him out of the way.

“It should not be this hard to serve your country,” Shulkin wrote in the op-ed, published the same day Trump announced on Twitter that he was nominating his White House physician to the VA secretary role.

Shulkin described his tenure as an effort to shore up the VA health care system while embroiled in a “power struggle” against those who sought to dismantle it.

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“It seems that these successes within the department have intensified the ambitions of people who want to put V.A. health care in the hands of the private sector,” Shulkin writes. “I believe differences in philosophy deserve robust debate, and solutions should be determined based on the merits of the arguments. The advocates within the administration for privatizing V.A. health services, however, reject this approach. They saw me as an obstacle to privatization who had to be removed.”

But Shulkin’s dismissal also came amid a growing ethics scandal involving personal travel and use of government resources.

He had agreed to reimburse the government more than $4,000 after the VA’s internal watchdog concluded last month that he had improperly accepted Wimbledon tennis tickets and that his chief of staff at the time had doctored e-mails to justify his wife traveling to Europe with him at taxpayer expense.

The inspector general was also reviewing allegations that Shulkin used a member of his security detail to run personal errands.

Trump said on Twitter on Wednesday that a Defense Department official would run the VA on an interim basis while Trump’s pick of Ronny Jackson is considered by the Senate.

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Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.