- The Senate may postpone the confirmation hearing for Ronny Jackson, MD, to take the helm as the new VA Secretary in place of former secretary David Shulkin, MD, according to Washington Post.
This decision to delay Jackson’s confirmation hearing comes after Republicans and Democrats voiced concern about the nominee’s qualifications and management experience, White House officials said.
In particular, newly-surfaced allegations about Jackson’s management of the White House medical office and conduct could make for a challenging hearing.
“I can tell you we’re vetting out Jackson,” Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) told the Washington Post. “I can’t get into specifics, but we’re doing our job to make sure he’s fit for the job.”
On April 24, the White House released the following statement defending Jackson’s ability to take the role as VA secretary:
“Admiral Jackson has been on the front lines of deadly combat and saved the lives of many others in service to this country,” stated Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley. “He’s served as physician to three Presidents — Republican and Democrat — and been praised by them all. Admiral Jackson’s record of strong, decisive leadership is exactly what’s needed at the VA to ensure our veterans receive the benefits they deserve.”
Lawmakers have not announced a new date for the hearing or confirmed whether the hearing will be postponed indefinitely.
In a recent press release, veterans’ service organization AMVETS called the confirmation hearing delay “the latest in an excruciating series of recent events that continue to undermine the best interests of veterans.”
“No matter whether these allegations against Dr. Jackson prove true or false, whether they continue to delay his confirmation indefinitely or sink it altogether, it’s the latest in a chain of unforced errors for which veterans are continuing to pay the price,” said AMVETS National Executive Director Joe Chenelly.
“Veterans are losing six different ways right now, from all directions, and it’s discouragingly unclear why this keeps happening or what might make it stop,” Chenelly continued.
The lack of continuity of leadership is counter to veterans’ best interests, AMVET members stated.
“There is also nothing but downside for veterans in prolonging the uncertain period between permanent secretaries,” Chenelly said. “Veterans deserve and need a stable VA with leaders properly vetted and confirmed.”
The lingering uncertainty surrounding VA leadership may further delay and complicate the federal agency’s ongoing Cerner EHR contract negotiations.
While former VA CIO Scott Blackburn claimed contract negotiations will advance despite recent leadership changes, the lack of a permanent department head could slow progress toward launching the EHR implementation project.