David Shulkin: "It should not be this hard to serve your country"
Former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin. Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein / Getty Images
Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs, David Shulkin, did not wait long after being fired by President Trump before going to the New York Times, as he had done on several occasions during his time in the administration, to tell his side of the story:
"The environment in Washington has turned so toxic, chaotic, disrespectful and subversive that it became impossible for me to accomplish the important work that our veterans need and deserve... I am proud of my record and know that I acted with the utmost integrity. Unfortunately, none of that mattered. As I prepare to leave government, I am struck by a recurring thought: It should not be this hard to serve your country."— Former VA Secretary David Shulkin in an NYT op-ed
Take note: This kind of freelancing to the NYT and other media outlets was at the center of both Trump's and chief of staff John Kelly's frustrations with the Secretary.
Key excerpts from Shulkin's op-ed:
- "I believe strongly in the mission of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and nothing about my political experience in Washington could ever change that."
- "During my tenure at the department, we have accomplished a tremendous amount... It seems that these successes within the department have intensified the ambitions of people who want to put V.A. health care in the hands of the private sector."
- "Until the past few months, veteran issues were dealt with in a largely bipartisan way... Unfortunately, the department has become entangled in a brutal power struggle, with some political appointees choosing to promote their agendas instead of what’s best for veterans."
- "I am a physician, not a politician. I came to government with an understanding that Washington can be ugly, but I assumed that I could avoid all of the ugliness by staying true to my values. I have been falsely accused of things by people who wanted me out of the way."
Shulkin's media blitz didn't end with the NYT. He also went on NPR Thursday morning where he said he thinks the Trump administration is trying to muzzle him "to make sure that I wasn't as effective as a leader moving forward."