The Senate Monday night unanimously voted to confirm David Shulkin, M.D., as secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Shulkin served as the Department of Veterans Affairs Undersecretary for Health prior to his confirmation. An internist, Shulkin previously held many chief executive roles, including president of Morristown Medical Center, Goryeb Children’s Hospital, Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute and the Atlantic Health System Accountable Care Organization. He was also the president and CEO of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.
He faces a big challenge in his new role. The VA is still reeling from a nationwide scandal involving secret lists that covered up long wait times for veterans seeking care. During his confirmation hearing, Shulkin said that “the Department of Veterans Affairs will not be privatized under my watch,” and he supported an integrated system of care that takes the best of the VA and the best of the community.
Shulkin is the first nonveteran to head the agency. In his new role, he will oversee approximately 370,000 employees and an annual budget of nearly $167 billion, according to the Associated Press.
Despite his nonmilitary background, The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars were among the national veterans organizations that supported his nomination, according to Military Times. The publication reports that in a letter to the Senate, the organizations wrote that Shulkin “has led the Veterans Health Administration through a difficult transition period by installing new leadership and implementing new reform plans to improve access and quality of care. Once confirmed as secretary, we are confident (Shulkin) will continue moving VA forward so that it can better meet the needs of America’s veterans, their families and survivors.”