Shulkin says VA getting 'back on track' amid speculation of firing

Shulkin says VA getting 'back on track' amid speculation of firing
© Greg Nash

Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinPress: Acosta, latest to walk the plank Senior Trump administration official to leave post next week Trump sent policy pitch from Mar-a-Lago member to VA secretary: report MORE said Thursday amid speculation that he will be fired by President TrumpDonald John TrumpAmash responds to 'Send her back' chants at Trump rally: 'This is how history's worst episodes begin' McConnell: Trump 'on to something' with attacks on Dem congresswomen Trump blasts 'corrupt' Puerto Rico's leaders amid political crisis MORE that he thinks his department is getting “back on track” after recent “distraction.”

“I’ve publicly acknowledged that the distraction that has happened that you’ve talked about is something that I deeply regret,” Shulkin told a House Appropriations subcommittee. “I’ve come here for one reason, and that’s to improve the lives of veterans, and that’s what I’m focused solely on doing.

“There are a lot of people that frankly are more interested in politics than I am. I’m interested in getting this job done. And I’ve made it clear to everybody in my department that I have no tolerance for anything other than the business that have to do for VA. I believe that we are getting back on track with that, and I’m going to do everything I can to keep our focus on the work that we have to do because there’s a lot of work to do, as you mentioned, that impacts people’s lives.” 

On Tuesday, news reports emerged that Trump is considering replacing Shulkin with Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerrySenior Trump administration official to leave post next week Overnight Energy: Trump doesn't mention climate change in speech touting environmental policies | Green groups fight EPA's new FOIA rule | Trump emissions rollback hit with legal challenge Trump touts environmental policies, but says nothing of climate change MORE. Perry told reporters Wednesday he is not interested in the VA job.

Arriving at Thursday’s hearing, Shulkin told reporters he has not spoken to Trump and ignored questions about whether he felt secure in his job.

Shulkin has been embroiled in controversy since the release of an inspector general's report in February that found Shulkin misused taxpayer dollars on a trip to Europe last summer.

Shulkin blamed turmoil in the wake of that report on an internal rebellion by some Trump appointees.

A Washington Post report last week also said Shulkin has placed an armed guard outside his office door, suggesting he was insulating himself from the appointees with whom he is clashing.

Shulkin addressed that report during the hearing, saying he has done nothing differently with his security detail than other Cabinet secretaries.

“Every Cabinet member has a security detail that is armed,” he said. “I am no different. I have done nothing different in my security protocol. There is no change from what it every has been, but I don’t like discussing my security protocol. And I’m not going to give those details, but there is nothing different from what we have been doing. My security detail assesses the risk and makes the decisions on how to best protect a Cabinet member.”