After the nomination process for his last pick to head the Department of Veterans Affairs ended amid allegations of improper behavior, President Donald Trump on Friday revealed his replacement nominee.
In an announcement he said would come as a surprise to the acting VA secretary, Trump said Robert Wilkie’s name would be put forward to fill the post on a permanent basis.
The president led into his remarks by congratulating the interim secretary’s performance.
Wilkie “has done an incredible job at the VA,” he said. The acting secretary has held the position since David Shulkin was dismissed from the post in March.
As the nominee looked on from the front row, Trump injected his announcement into remarks he made during a prison reform summit at the White House.
“I’ll be informing him in a little while, he doesn’t know this yet, that we’re going to be putting his name up for nomination to be secretary of the Veterans Administration (sic).”
President Trump on Robert Wilkie: "We're going to be putting his name up for nomination to be Secretary of the Veterans Administration." pic.twitter.com/uXs4loUbpP
— CSPAN (@cspan) May 18, 2018
Wilkie received a standing ovation as he stood to shake Trump’s hand.
“I’m sorry that I ruined the surprise,” the president added. “I’ll see you anyway.”
President Trump announced he will nominate Loyola New Orleans Law School grad Robert Wilkie to be the next secretary of the VA. I look forward to the Senate considering his nomination.
— Bill Cassidy, M.D. (@BillCassidy) May 18, 2018
Trump went on to tout some of the Department of Veterans Affairs successes he claimed on behalf of his administration.
“We’re very close to getting choice approved,” he said, referring to passage in the U.S. House of Representatives this week of a sweeping VA reform bill.
A major focus of the legislation corresponds with Trump’s longstanding pledge to provide veterans with more health care choices in the private sector.
“And now, as you know, the House just passed choice and it’s the finer level of choice,” Trump said. “We had different levels of choice: good, bad, OK and really good. And I think this falls into the really good category. It’ll be a little more expensive, but that’s OK.”
He also cited the passage of 2017’s VA Accountability Act as another win for veterans.
“We had just approved VA accountability, which for almost 40 years they could not get approved,” he said.
That legislation sought to address allegations of wrongdoing in the agency linked to deadly waiting times at VA facilities. The law also provides certain protections for individuals attempting to expose misdeeds.
“What happened was a national disgrace, and yet some of the employees involved remained on the payrolls,” he said at the time. “Our veterans have fulfilled their duty to this nation, and now we must fulfill our duty to them.”
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