By Debbie Gregory.
President Trump held a series of “White House listening sessions” with various groups and then met with veterans advocates the following day. But apparently when it came to discussing the ways his administration could reform the embattled Department of Veterans Affairs, he failed to invite officials from the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Trump’s pick to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, David Shulkin, did attend the White House meeting hours before his confirmation vote in the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
Kellyanne Conway, a top adviser to Trump, told reporters outside the White House that the president had a “very productive conversation” with advocates about veterans issues.
Conway said veteran care should be “a bipartisan issue, if not a nonpartisan issue.”
Toby Cosgrove, CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, said after the meeting that the discussion had ranged “from governance to modernization to accountability across the organization.”
Cosgrove was once a rumored front-runner for the VA secretary job.
During the campaign, Trump described the VA as “the most corrupt” and “probably the most incompetently run” of all federal agencies.
The president has proposed an ambitious 10-point plan for VA reform that includes giving veterans the option to seek private healthcare if they want to bypass the government-run system.
Trump promoted Shulkin, Obama’s VA undersecretary of health, to a Cabinet position.
Shulkin, a physician who would be the first nonveteran to lead the government’s second-largest agency, is expected to receive broad support in the Senate and is one of few Cabinet nominees who has not faced coordinated opposition from Democratic lawmakers. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee voted unanimously to advance Shulkin’s nomination out of committee on Tuesday.