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Trump Nominates VA Undersecretary For Health To Head Department


President-elect Donald Trump made an important cabinet nomination today for Secretary of Veterans Affairs. He's David Shulkin, the VA's current undersecretary for health. NPR's Quil Lawrence reports.

QUIL LAWRENCE, BYLINE: After two years of attacking the VA's current leadership, Trump nominated a man who's been part of it. David Shulkin told NPR last fall that VA has been making great strides.

DAVID SHULKIN: But we have a lot more to do, and that's why it is my number one priority to focus on access to health care. We're putting in the same-day services for veterans in every one of our medical centers. We'll have same-day services in primary care and mental health. And that's going to assure that there aren't veterans in those areas that are waiting for health care.

LAWRENCE: Shulkin is a physician. In fact, he's been seeing VA patients while in office. He's not a veteran, unlike every previous VA secretary. Vets groups may be willing to overlook that, says Louis Celli with the American Legion.

LOUIS CELLI: He's already well-integrated into the Department of Veterans Affairs, so he knows where the bones are buried.

LAWRENCE: Tapping a respected insider at VA may suggest Trump understands just how hard it will be to fix, says Paul Rieckhoff with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

PAUL RIECKHOFF: In many ways, the Trump administration is like the dog that caught the car. They've been blasting VA for two years. Now they've got to run it. So Dr. Shulkin can definitely help them do that, and he has an obligation also to stand up to Trump.

LAWRENCE: For example, Shulkin oversaw increased use of private care outside VA with mixed results. It's not clear where he stands on Trump's plan to expand privatization, an idea unpopular with veterans. Quil Lawrence, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.