Trump taps VA chief of staff to run department on interim basis

Trump taps VA chief of staff to run department on interim basis
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpLondon terror suspect’s children told authorities he complained about Trump: inquiry The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Trump to nominate retiring lawmaker as head of trade agency MORE on Wednesday named the Department of Veterans Affairs' chief of staff, Peter O'Rourke, to lead the agency until his choice to be the next VA secretary can be confirmed.

The VA announced that O’Rourke will now take over as acting secretary, a position that had been held by Robert Wilkie, who will be returning to the Department of Defense until he is confirmed as VA secretary

Leaders of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee said last week they intend to hold a confirmation hearing for Wilkie, who was tapped to lead the VA earlier this month, after the Senate returns from recess.

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O’Rourke, a member of Trump’s transition team, ran the VA’s Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection before becoming chief of staff.

The VA also announced Wednesday that Deputy Secretary Thomas Bowman, whom Trump passed over for the role of acting secretary, will retire effective June 15.

Bowman has reportedly been at odds with the administration’s attempts to dramatically expand veterans’ access to private care at taxpayer expense and was seen as an ally of the previous VA secretary, David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinVeterans group sues to block advisers known as ‘Mar-a-Lago Crowd’ from influencing VA Mar-a-Lago insiders provided input on VA policy, personnel decisions: report Ahead of speech, Kansas City newspaper urges Trump to listen to veterans MORE.

“VA is thankful for Mr. Bowman’s dedication and commitment in serving our Veterans as Deputy Secretary. His contributions over the past year have been instrumental in helping VA achieve its legislative priorities,” the department said in a statement.

Trump announced he was firing Shulkin in a tweet in March. Shulkin blamed his ouster on forces within the administration that he said are pushing hard for unfettered privatization. He was also under fire, however, for misleading ethics officials in order to justify a trip to Europe at taxpayer expense.

Veterans groups initially wanted Trump to appoint Bowman as acting secretary. After Trump bypassed Bowman and named Wilkie to the post, the groups urged Trump to appoint Bowman as acting secretary until Wilkie is confirmed.