Veterans Affairs Secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinBiden's nominee for VA secretary isn't a veteran — does it matter? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Congress slogs toward COVID-19 relief, omnibus deal A crisis that unites veterans MORE has reportedly cut off contact with top agency officials and now operates out of an office with an armed guard at the door amid ongoing tensions with top staff.
Shulkin, a VA holdover from the Obama administration promoted to the head job by President TrumpDonald TrumpCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Netanyahu suggests Biden fell asleep in meeting with Israeli PM Aides try to keep Biden away from unscripted events or long interviews, book claims MORE, has canceled morning meetings with top Trump appointees in the department and hasn't spoken to his public affairs chief in weeks. He fears that his aides in the nation's second-largest bureaucracy, behind only the Pentagon, are actively lobbying the White House for his ouster, The Washington Post reports.
In addition, several senior officials Shulkin personally suspects of disloyalty have lost access to the secretary's 10th floor executive suite.
The chaos has allegedly deadlocked an agency that President Trump promised during his 2016 campaign to reform after a major health-care scandal during the Obama administration.
“Things have come to a grinding halt,” one senior manager told the Post. “It’s killing the agency. Nobody trusts each other.”
Among those allegedly seeking Shulkin's ouster are public affairs chief John Ullyot, legislative affairs head Brooks Tucker and top aide Jake Leinenkugel, who all clashed with Shulkin over policies seen to be out of step with the Trump administration, as well as hires for the agency.
The friction led to the three regularly meeting to plot Shulkin's firing, the Post reports, while also overruling the Cabinet secretary on policy decisions.
Shulkin, meanwhile, recently met with Marvel Entertainment chief executive Ike Perlmutter, who advises Trump on veterans' issues and whose backing Shulkin sought to rid the agency of his critics.
“The tragedy of all of this is that Shulkin is putting points on the scoreboard for Trump,” said Philip Carter, a veterans' issues expert at the Center for a New American Security. “It’s the president’s agenda that suffers with this kind of dysfunction.”
Shulkin is the only Trump Cabinet secretary who also worked under the Obama White House, and he has battled scandal during his time under Trump. Last week it was revealed that Shulkin was the target of an inspector general investigation into the use of his personal security detail to perform errands.
In February, a separate inspector general investigation found that Shulkin improperly accepted tickets to the Wimbledon tennis tournament and used taxpayer dollars to take a trip to Europe that cost $122,000 in total. The report alleged that government emails were doctored so that taxpayer funding covered travel expenses racked up by Shulkin's wife.