VA Secretary David Shulkin interviews for HHS secretary role

David Shulkin
Veterans Affairs secretary David Shulkin has interviewed for the HHS secretary post vacated last month by Tom Price. (Whitehouse.gov)

Department of Veterans Affairs secretary David Shulkin interviewed for the role of Department of Health and Human Services secretary, people familiar with the White House meetings told The Wall Street Journal. 

Shulkin, a physician, made a strong case for himself, according to the report, but his success within the VA may actually hurt his chances. An administration official said Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, also believed to be a strong contender for the secretary job, faces the same dubious challenge. 

"Sometimes you promote someone who's doing a great job," the official told WSJ. "On the other hand, these are two highly functioning, effective officials doing a good job where they are. And they're very little trouble." 

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Former HHS secretary Tom Price, M.D., resigned on Sept. 29 amid controversy about his use of private planes for travel. A Politico investigation revealed that he had taken 24 private flights since his tenure began in May, costing taxpayers as much as $400,000. 

The flap launched two investigations into Price's travel spending: one through the HHS Office of Inspector General and one from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. HHS at first defended the spending as necessary because of Price's busy schedule. 

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Shortly before resigning, Price promised to repay the Treasury for the costs of his seats, but not the full costs of the flights. He made a payment of nearly $52,000 shortly before leaving the department. 

Don J. Wright, M.D., a longtime HHS official, was originally tapped as Price's acting replacement, but he has since been replaced as acting secretary by Eric Hargan. Hargan, a former George W. Bush administration official, served on Trump's HHS transition team.