Washington, DC — Democracy Forward with VoteVets filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) seeking records detailing the extent to which senior VA officials coordinated with the Trump White House and outside groups to use VA Secretary David Shulkin’s travel scandal as an excuse to replace him because he opposes privatizing the VA health system.
The request follows reports of infighting and chaos at the Department. Leaked emails show that White House Senior Advisor on Veterans Affairs Jake Lenenkugel and the VA’s Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs John Ullyot plotted to use the recent controversy surrounding VA Secretary David Shulkin’s travel to replace him with a Secretary who supports privatization. Privatizing the VA health care system is a pet project for groups like the Koch-backed organization “Concerned Veterans of America,” but Shulkin has said he opposes privatization.
“If the controversy surrounding the travel of Secretary Shulkin is being promoted by people within the administration, to force the Secretary out because he refuses to privatize the VA, then veterans have right to know,” said Will Fischer, Iraq War Veteran and Director of Government Relations for VoteVets. “If people within the agency are coordinating with those close to the Koch Brothers, and doing their bidding, by trying to undermine the Secretary, veterans have a right to know. If chaos is being promoted, to the detriment of veterans, as a means to oust a secretary simply because he won’t pawn veterans off to the for-profit health care system, veterans have a right to know. Veterans deserve to have someone get to the bottom of this, and that’s what we’re doing.”
“The Trump Administration appears to be plowing new ground here — using one of its many travel scandals as cover for another giveaway to corporate cronies,” said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy. “Veterans deserve to know whether corporate interest groups are taking advantage of the chaos within the Administration to push a pro-privatization and anti-veteran agenda.”
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.
December 7, 2018