President-elect Donald Trump announced Wednesday his intent to nominate David Shulkin for secretary of veterans affairs.
Trump made the announcement during a press conference in New York City, his first since the November election.
“I’ll tell you about David, he’s fantastic,” Trump told reporters Wednesday. “He will do a truly great job. One of the commitments I’ve made is that we’re going to straighten out the whole situation for our veterans. Our veterans have been treated horribly.”
In his current post at the Department of Veterans Affairs as undersecretary for health, Shulkin runs the Veterans Health Administration. The agency oversees more than 1,700 hospitals and medical facilities, and serves over 8.7 million veterans.
President Barack Obama nominated Shulkin to serve as undersecretary of health in March 2015, and the Senate unanimously confirmed him several months later.
“President-elect Trump’s commitment to caring for our veterans is unquestionable, and he is eager to support the best practices for care and provide our Veterans Affairs’ teams with the resources they need to improve health outcomes,” Shulkin said in a statement. “We are both eager to begin reforming the areas in our Veterans Affairs system that need critical attention, and do it in a swift, thoughtful, and responsible way.”
Scandals have plagued the VA for several years. In 2014, CNN reported that VA hospitals were keeping secret waiting lists designed to hide the lengthy amounts of time veterans had to wait for care.
While on the campaign trail, Trump pledged to overhaul the VA, the second-largest federal agency, and often criticized it for being a “broken” system.
His campaign released a 10-point plan designed to “make the VA great again,” which included changes to make it easier to fire VA employees who have “jeopardized the health, safety, or well-being of a veteran” and allow veterans to seek care from providers outside of the VA system.
Concerned Veterans for America, a veterans advocacy group, said in a statement it hopes to work with Shulkin to implement a number of reforms at the VA.
“It is no secret that the VA has been failing veterans for years. While Shulkin already holds a leadership position at the VA, as secretary, he will now have ultimate responsibility over the agency and we are hopeful he will take it in a new direction,” Mark Lucas, its executive director, said.
If confirmed by the Senate, Shulkin will be the first VA secretary who is not a veteran, according to The Washington Post.
Secretary of the VA was one of the last remaining Cabinet posts Trump had yet to fill, with only the secretary of agriculture remaining.
Following the November election, Trump met with many potential candidates—ranging from health care professionals to military leaders—for the position of VA secretary. Veterans service organizations pushed the president-elect to keep the current secretary, Robert McDonald, in place.
Shulkin works under McDonald in his current role as undersecretary for health. An internist, he previously worked in chief executive roles for a number of medical facilities, including president of Morristown Medical Center and Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. He also served as chief medical officer of the University of Pennsylvania Health System.
Shulkin received his medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania.