Mar-a-Lago insiders provided input on VA policy, personnel decisions: report
A trio of high-profile individuals with ties to President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago golf club provided input and directives to staff at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), despite never serving in government or the military.
ProPublica reported Tuesday that Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter, Palm Beach doctor Bruce Moskowitz and attorney Marc Sherman communicated daily with VA officials about personnel and policy decisions.
The news outlet obtained hundreds of documents that showed the three men suggested new programs and met with senior VA officials in Florida to advise them on the department’s agenda.
ProPublica cited an instance where former VA Secretary David Shulkin clashed with Moskowitz over an overhaul of the agency’s records system. Politico previously reported that Moskowitz objected to the project because he disliked the software involved. He later joined conference calls on the subject with White House approval.
In another example, Moskowitz urged the VA to start a national registry for medical devices, a cause he had championed for years, ProPublica reported. He joined officials on weekly conference calls to discuss the matter.
ProPublica cited an instance where Perlmutter wrote to Shulkin urging him to consider using private medical centers and trade groups to advise the VA on which resources to outsource.
Perlmutter, Moskowitz and Sherman issued a statement to ProPublica saying they offered their help “on a voluntary basis,” adding that they “did not make or implement any type of policy … or direct government officials to take any actions.”
White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told the news outlet that the three men “have no direct influence over the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
The VA has been a focus of President Trump’s, as he has repeatedly promised to deliver improved care for veterans.
However, the agency has already undergone multiple leadership changes during the Trump administration and been a source of reported dysfunction.
Shulkin was ousted earlier this year amid an investigation into ethical misconduct. He and Trump reportedly clashed over the privatization of the VA. During his tenure, he spoke out about dealing with staffers who defied his leadership.
Robert Wilkie was confirmed late last month to serve as the new secretary of the agency after Trump’s initial replacement pick, Ronny Jackson, withdrew amid scrutiny over alleged workplace misconduct.
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