Fresh off the heels of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s firing, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has reportedly begun to draw ire from President Donald Trump following a spate of scandals in his agency, according to multiple news reports.
Trump is considering replacing Shulkin with Energy Secretary Rick Perry, a former governor of Texas, according to people close to the White House. During a lunch with Perry on March 12, 2018, Trump talked about veterans health issues but reportedly stopped short of offering him the position.
Also read: VA watchdog is reviewing Shulkin’s 10-day trip to Europe where he attended Wimbledon, went on cruise
Shulkin, a holdover from the Obama administration and the only Cabinet nominee who was unanimously confirmed, is believed to be on Trump’s firing line after an inspector general report concluded he improperly accepted tickets to a Wimbledon tennis match during a government-funded trip with his wife.
Meanwhile, Shulkin reportedly believes that Trump appointees within the department have been conspiring against him and embarked on a campaign to purge the VA of disloyal employees. Following reports of turmoil within the VA, Business Insider began receiving statements of alleged misconduct and mismanagement from current and former employees.
Though their accounts are largely unconfirmed, these employees claim they are “being forced out and made to suffer” and that Shulkin was “responsible for the mismanagement.”
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly met with Shulkin, and counseled him to curb the drama, sources told Axios. Following the meeting at the White House, Shulkin conducted an interview with The New York Times, in which he claimed the White House granted him approval to remove staffers who did not support him.
Kelly, who found out about The Times’s article after he was contacted by reporters, reportedly called Shulkin following the interview and believed the secretary exploited the White House meeting, Axios reported.
Following an outbreak of negative press coverage, Shulkin hired additional lawyers and an outside public-relations firm to fend off reports of internal quibbles and to help with the fallout.
But Shulkin’s problems may have only begun to unravel, as the VA inspector general was reportedly looking into a new report on whether he improperly used his security detail to run personal errands. The complaint alleged that Shulkin asked a member of his security detail to accompany him to a Home Depot and carry furniture items to his house, The Associated Press reported on March 13, 2018.
Shulkin was reportedly acting erratically and being “extremely paranoid” amid the release of the report, and is believed to have ordered an armed guard to stand outside of his office.
“The honeymoon is ending with a crash that hurts veterans most of all,” Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said to The Associated Press. “VA always has bad news, but Shulkin’s ethical and leadership failures are still significant — despite any internal attacks.”