A continuing transformation

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Dr. David Shulkin takes over as head of VA, vows ‘swift’ and ‘responsible’ reform

Dr. David Shulkin

On Jan. 11, then-President-elect Donald Trump nominated Dr. David Shulkin to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. Shulkin, who DAV named Outstanding Federal Executive of the Year for 2016, has served as the VA’s undersecretary for health since July 2015.

“I have no doubt Dr. Shulkin will be able to lead the turnaround our Department of Veterans Affairs needs,” said Trump in a statement following the announcement. “His sole mandate will be to serve our veterans and restore the level of care we owe to our brave men and women in the military.”

As the chief executive for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), Shulkin has overseen and directed the delivery of health care to the more than 9 million veterans enrolled at the VA—the largest integrated health care system in the nation.

“It is my honor to serve as President-elect Trump’s secretary of Veterans Affairs. President-elect Trump’s commitment to caring for our veterans is unquestionable, and he is eager to support the best practices for care and provide our Veterans Affairs teams with the resources they need to improve health outcomes,” said Shulkin in a statement following his nomination. “We are both eager to begin reforming the areas in our Veterans Affairs system that need critical attention, and do it in a swift, thoughtful and responsible way.”

During the selection process, DAV, alongside many other veterans groups, voiced encouragement for the incoming presidential administration to nominate a secretary who would work to ensure progress made within the VA over the past two years would not be lost.

“We are pleased that President-elect Trump has chosen Dr. David Shulkin to continue and complete the transformation of the Department of Veterans Affairs currently underway,” said Washington Headquarters Executive Director Garry Augustine. “As undersecretary for health, Dr. Shulkin worked closely with DAV and others to strengthen and reform the VA health care system.”

Beyond Shulkin’s experience managing VHA and the more than 305,000 health care professionals and staff it employs, the Pennsylvania native brings a wealth of private sector experience as well, having served as president and CEO of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York from 2005 to 2009 and as president of Morristown Medical Center in Morristown, N.J., from 2010 to 2015.

“My experience in the private sector and relooking at business models has allowed me to come in and challenge some of the issues in the Veterans Health Administration that, frankly, needed to be questioned,” Shulkin said. “Bringing best practices from the private sector will help me achieve our outcome, which is to provide better care to our veterans.”

Shulkin, the son of an Army psychiatrist and grandson of a World War I veteran, was unanimously confirmed for the post in mid-February.