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Embattled VA secretary says he's moving on from 'unfortunate distraction'

Embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said Wednesday that he has put disputes within his agency and with...

Posted: Mar. 7, 2018 10:10 AM
Updated: Mar. 7, 2018 10:10 AM

Embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said Wednesday that he has put disputes within his agency and with Trump administration political appointees behind him.

"There is no doubt that we have been in an unfortunate distraction. Those days are over. We are all now focused on the work that has to be here that's important for us to do," Shulkin told reporters.

Speaking as his department's inspector general released a damning report about issues at the Washington DC VA medical center, Shulkin said that he and his leadership team were "fully committed to this work" and "only focused on improving care to veterans today."

Shulkin also maintained that he has the support of the White House and said that he spoke to President Donald Trump on Tuesday evening.

The White House has made clear, Shulkin said, "that I am the secretary and my job is to fix this system to veterans. And things that are not productive are not tolerated." He said that there is "too much to do to be distracted with the political infighting."

Shulkin, who had bipartisan support when he was named to lead the VA, has been locked in a turf war with Trump administration political appointees who he has said were working to subvert his authority and oust him.

The release last month of an inspector general report on a trip that Shulkin took to Europe last summer brought more scrutiny on Shulkin's job. The report found "serious derelictions" by Shulkin and senior staff related to the trip and concluded that Shulkin misused taxpayer funds and inappropriately accepted Wimbledon tickets, and that his then-chief of staff doctored an email to justify the department paying for his wife's airfare to accompany him.

Shulkin disputed both the conclusion of the report and its process and maintained he did nothing wrong, though he said he would comply with all of the inspector general's recommendations.

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