Trump's physician offers glowing praise

A sampling of the many kind things that Dr. Ronny Jackson, presidential physician, had to say about President Trump's health.

Posted: Mar 30, 2018 9:06 PM
Updated: Mar 30, 2018 9:08 PM

Campaigning for the White House, Donald Trump repeatedly pledged to improve veterans' care. But President Donald Trump's choice of White House physician Ronny Jackson to serve as the next secretary of veterans affairs has been met with concern among Washington lawmakers and veterans' advocates who worry that Jackson lacks the experience to lead the government's second largest bureaucracy.

If Jackson is confirmed, he will inherit a Department of Veterans Affairs that has been faced with challenges that have spanned years. The department, which has 370,000 employees and serves more than 20 million veterans, has struggled to modernize with its inefficient health care system ensnared in crisis.

David Shulkin, fired by the President on Wednesday, departs at a critical moment with big decisions about the future of veterans' health care and its health records systems waiting in the wings.

Jackson has served for the last three administrations as a White House physician and is an active duty rear admiral in the Navy, but has little management experience.

That's led to a muted public response on Capitol Hill and private concerns that Trump's pick of Jackson, a man who has the President's affection and has been at the White House since 2006, is the right person for the job.

The top senators on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, chairman Johnny Isakson of Georgia, and ranking member Jon Tester of Montana, had little to say publicly about the President's choice. In separate statements, Isakson said he looks forward "to learning more about him," and Tester saying he wants to find out if Jackson is "up for the job."

Chris Lu, who served as the liaison to former President Barack Obama's Cabinet, told CNN, "VA is not only the largest health care system in the nation, but it also provides benefits for millions of veterans and their family members. Running this department is a massive management task. As accomplished a physician as Ronny Jackson might be, he brings less management experience to this job than any previous VA secretary."

A spokesperson for the former president declined to comment on Trump's decision to nominate Jackson.

Former Obama CIA Director John Brennan called Trump's pick of Jackson a "terribly misguided nomination" in a tweet Thursday.

"I personally know and greatly respect Ronny Jackson .... as a terrific doctor and Navy officer," Brennan wrote. "However, he has neither the experience nor the credentials to run the very large and complex VA. This is a terribly misguided nomination that will hurt both a good man and our veterans."

Jackson's views on some of the most pressing issues at the department remain unknown, particularly on the debate over allowing veterans more access to private doctors outside of the VA's health care system. Roughly one third of veterans already see private doctors, but the President and his allies are pushing for more private care, particularly the group Concerned Veterans for America, which is backed by the billionaire Koch brothers.

The group did not include a mention of Jackson in a press release after his nomination was announced. It said Shulkin had made "significant headway in reforming the department but ultimately became a distraction."

Asked how Jackson is qualified to oversee medical care for US veterans, a White House official told CNN Wednesday that Jackson would bring with him both a medical and military background to the department as well as past praise for his work in previous administrations.

Corey Lewandowski, Trump's former campaign manager, said on CNN's "New Day" that former VA administrators with more experience weren't getting the job done.

"I think if you look back and you look at the previous VA secretaries, those who supposedly had management experience who have come in, we have seen disasters under their regimes," Lewandowski.

Nevertheless, one of Shulkin's toughest critics on Capitol Hill says Jackson could face a bumpy ride.

Republican Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado, one of the lawmakers who had called for Shulkin's removal, told CNN's "New Day" that to succeed at VA, Jackson would need to "clean house."

"This is an organization that's over half the size of the United States Army," Coffman said. "Unless he's going be tough, nothing's going to change."

Asked whether he believed Jackson needed management experience, he said, "it certainly helps," but added that Shulkin was an experienced manager and failed at the job.

"It's gonna be tough," he added. "I'll be frank with you, the odds are not with him."

Jackson's performance during an extended, at times testy, press conference over the President's health and cognitive fitness played a part in his nomination for secretary of Veterans Affairs, a White House official told CNN.

The official said Trump liked the way Jackson handled himself with reporters during the briefing in January.

Aside from his experience, it's the fight over privatization that may define Jackson's potential term.

In a fiery New York Times op-ed, Shulkin pointed to the policy fight as factor in his ouster, saying his successes at the agency "intensified the ambitions of people who want to put VA health care in the hands of the private sector."

"The private sector, already struggling to provide adequate access to care in many communities, is ill-prepared to handle the number and complexity of patients that would come from closing or downsizing VA hospitals and clinics, particularly when it involves the mental health needs of people scarred by the horrors of war," Shulkin wrote.

The leaders of veterans' groups sounded alarm on the pick, and said they weren't consulted with the White House. Many of them, in fact, had been pushing the White House to allow Shulkin to stay in the job, even as the President's attitude on Shulkin soured.

"I have no idea what to expect from him, quite frankly," Vietnam Veterans of America President John Rowan told CNN, adding that he was disappointed that the President had removed Shulkin, but he also expressed some relief at the pick -- it could have been worse.

"We were hoping that we prevailed, but at least he isn't appointing one of those rabid privatization people, so that's a plus," he said.

At AMVETS, executive director Joe Chenelly said that Trump's decision to oust Shulkin and replace him with Jackson had brought efforts to reform and modernize VA "to a screeching halt."

"We don't see anything in his bio that makes him fit to lead," Chenelly told CNN, adding that his group is "a long way to supporting the nominee."

Veterans of Foreign Wars echoed that point in a statement Thursday, saying Jackson's background does not show any experience working with the Department of Veterans Affairs or with veterans or managing any organization of the size of the agency, "so the VFW will be closely monitoring his Senate confirmation process."

The group also praised Shulkin for his helming of a department rocked by a crisis the year before he took over, saying that under his tenure, the agency saw successes ranging from "increased accountability and transparency to a beefed-up education package and increases in overall funding and patient satisfaction."

Paul Rieckhoff, the chief executive of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told CNN's "New Day" that the move to replace Shulkin would only add to the instability that already plagues VA, noting that since he returned from Iraq in 2004, three VA secretaries have either resigned in scandal or been fired.

"The VA's a monster for any leader to try to manage effectively. And when the changeover happens, it's very disruptive to the front line personnel at the VA, it's very disruptive to the veterans that depend on it for care," he said.

Of Jackson, Rieckhoff added, "he's going to have a very hard row to hoe to try to convince people that he's qualified."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 157713

Reported Deaths: 4092
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion25392789
Lake13805355
St. Joseph9277163
Elkhart8890135
Allen8278230
Hamilton6215113
Vanderburgh588261
Tippecanoe375915
Hendricks3302133
Monroe326638
Porter322049
Johnson3151129
Delaware297074
Clark296762
Vigo264840
Madison240595
LaPorte226658
Cass225522
Warrick195265
Kosciusko187826
Floyd180167
Howard164066
Bartholomew143358
Marshall140026
Dubois139626
Wayne132130
Henry128430
Grant127839
Boone124550
Hancock119944
Noble117434
Jackson114416
Dearborn98028
Morgan94840
Lawrence90837
Daviess89334
Gibson88612
Clinton86716
Shelby83531
LaGrange81015
Knox77410
Harrison77324
Putnam73716
Posey7236
DeKalb72011
Fayette69018
Steuben6338
Miami6305
Jasper6175
White59215
Montgomery59022
Greene55337
Scott52413
Decatur50739
Adams5027
Whitley4636
Clay4537
Ripley4538
Sullivan44414
Wells43511
Wabash4219
Starke4157
Orange40925
Huntington4015
Spencer3956
Washington3783
Franklin37625
Jennings36913
Fulton3653
Randolph3659
Jefferson3435
Pike33518
Carroll32913
Perry32614
Jay3116
Fountain3073
Tipton27823
Vermillion2531
Parke2374
Newton23011
Blackford2193
Rush2184
Owen2071
Martin2000
Crawford1591
Pulaski1562
Brown1433
Ohio1327
Benton1120
Union1110
Switzerland960
Warren841
Unassigned0234

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 192948

Reported Deaths: 5184
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin31703640
Cuyahoga19906684
Hamilton16878344
Montgomery10546189
Butler8401130
Lucas8364373
Summit6780265
Warren428466
Stark3853182
Mahoning3739287
Marion341250
Pickaway302446
Delaware290627
Lorain275489
Fairfield268657
Licking262366
Clark253057
Wood252981
Clermont251238
Greene234542
Trumbull2290134
Allen218373
Columbiana213387
Miami202858
Lake196659
Medina188942
Portage165468
Mercer154728
Wayne144669
Ross141537
Richland135124
Tuscarawas130825
Athens12352
Erie116953
Darke115551
Hancock106626
Madison106315
Auglaize102316
Putnam101627
Lawrence94525
Shelby91714
Muskingum9044
Scioto8719
Geauga86950
Belmont78927
Union7703
Ashtabula73548
Sandusky71722
Huron71614
Preble63518
Holmes63310
Seneca60714
Ottawa58930
Fulton54513
Henry48817
Jefferson4774
Clinton47213
Jackson4728
Crawford4688
Defiance46613
Fayette4528
Highland4446
Logan4353
Ashland4109
Champaign4053
Knox39416
Brown3883
Perry37311
Morrow3562
Washington35524
Hardin34813
Williams3464
Guernsey3298
Coshocton32412
Pike3120
Wyandot29813
Gallia29213
Van Wert2685
Carroll2157
Adams2126
Meigs21012
Paulding2072
Hocking1999
Monroe16318
Noble1480
Vinton1043
Harrison843
Morgan800
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 36°
Angola
Clear
34° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 29°
Huntington
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 32°
Decatur
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 36°
Van Wert
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 36°
Cooler Saturday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events