Former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin says in a new book he was shocked by an apparent culture of backstabbing in Washington and specifically his own department — and that veterans are paying the price, The Washington Post reported Friday.
“The VA was once thought to be the only part of the federal government that was above politics,” Shulkin writes in his book, titled, “It Shouldn’t Be This Hard to Serve Your Country,” according to the Post. But “the environment in Washington had grown so toxic, chaotic and subversive that it became impossible for me to accomplish the important work that our veterans need and deserve.”
The book recounts Shulkin’s take on his time in the White House, which ended with a contentious departure stemming from controversies including misusing his security detail and bringing his wife on a taxpayer-funded Europe trip. President Donald Trump became upset with Shulkin over the growing scandals, ultimately nominating Ronny Jackson, the former physician to the President, to fill the role.
CNN has not obtained a copy of the book, which is slated to be released Tuesday.
While Shulkin’s account does not offer many glimpses into Trump’s thinking, he does recount an interaction with the President and his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, the Post reported. Shulkin says the two weighed issuing an executive order to shutter poorly performing VA hospitals until Shulkin dissuaded them and cited the need for Congress to approve such a move, according to the newspaper.
Shulkin alleges that his own staff members, using ethics concerns over the Europe trip for their benefit, were behind his ouster, the Post reported. He also asserts his subordinates were political appointees who distrusted him as an Obama administration alum and saw him as an obstacle blocking their main goal of privatizing veterans’ health care.
“Privatization leading to the dismantling of the department’s extensive health care system is a terrible idea,” Shulkin writes, criticizing his detractors for advocating for “unfettered” private care access costing taxpayers billions of dollars compared to his more measured strategy, according to the newspaper.
White House spokesman Judd Deere slammed Shulkin in a statement to the Post, saying that “while the former VA secretary chooses to profit off his time in office and share outlandish claims about his private conversations with the President, President Trump remains focused on ensuring veterans receive the care they have earned through their incredible sacrifice for our Nation.”