Suit Follows Shulkin’s Abrupt Firing via Tweet, Seeks Documents Disclosing Koch-Backed Group’s Effort to Transfer Veterans’ Health Care to For-Profit Companies
Suit Comes In Response To Trump Administration Stonewalling
Washington, DC — On behalf of VoteVets, Democracy Forward filed a lawsuit today against the Trump Administration for failing to turn over records from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. That request was for all communications detailing the extent to which senior VA and other Trump administration officials coordinated with pro-privatization special interest groups, including the Charles and David Koch-backed Concerned Veterans for America, to push out former VA Secretary David Shulkin.
The case follows the abrupt tweet firing of Shulkin by Trump that reportedly was previewed by phone from Chief of Staff John Kelly after Shulkin expressed concern that Trump-appointed officials are trying “to undermine the [VA] from within” in order to transfer the health care system relied on by millions of American veterans into the hands of for-profit health groups.
Leaked emails show that political appointees within the VA sought to “topple” Shulkin and replace him with a Koch-backed privatization advocate. In particular, White House Senior Advisor on Veterans Affairs Jake Leinenkugel and the VA’s Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs John Ullyot, suggested a scheme to oust Secretary Shulkin and replace him with a former leader of the Koch-backed Concerned Veterans of America, which has made privatization a major priority.
“Secretary Shulkin’s firing is now one of the most important issues facing veterans,” said Will Fischer, Iraq War Veteran and Director of Government Outreach for VoteVets. “Was his firing because he stood up to those who want to privatize the agency? Was his firing engineered by agents of the Kochs, who want to see someone installed as head of the VA, whose job will be to shutter health care services, and turn the agency into voucher-care? Veterans have to know, and we’re going to get them the answers they deserve.”
“Veterans who rely on the VA deserve to know if Shulkin was pushed out to pave the way for the Koch brothers’ privatization scheme,” said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy. “There’s a substantial amount of evidence suggesting privatization was the motive, and the Trump administration’s stonewalling makes you wonder what they are trying to hide from the public.”
VoteVets and Democracy Forward filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in March seeking communications between the VA and Concerned Veterans of America. The groups filed suit after the agency failed to provide any responsive records. Read the entire FOIA request here and the full complaint here.
Founded in 2006, and backed by over 500,000 supporters, the mission of VoteVets.org is to use public issue campaigns and direct outreach to lawmakers to ensure that troops abroad have what they need to complete their missions, and receive the care they deserve when they get home. VoteVets.org also recognizes veterans as a vital part of the fabric of our country and will work to protect veterans’ interests in their day-to-day lives. VoteVets.org is committed to the destruction of terror networks around the world – with force when necessary – to protect America. While non-partisan, the group is the largest progressive organization of veterans in America.
Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.