Trump ousts Veterans Affairs chief Shulkin, nominates personal physician to replace him

David Shulkin at a news conference in March

"Admiral Jackson is highly trained and qualified and as a service member himself, he has seen firsthand the tremendous sacrifice our veterans make and has a deep appreciation for the debt our great country owes them", Trump said.

Trump has selected Robert Wilkie, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to serve as the acting head of the VA.

The ouster had been expected, with three administration officials telling the Associated Press earlier this week that Trump is planned to oust Shulkin amid an extraordinary rebellion at the agency and damaging government investigations into his alleged spending abuses.

The president has told a number of advisers that he wants to oust Shulkin, once a favorite in his Cabinet.

Shulkin had been drawing criticism for a damning report from the inspector general of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Jackson has served as White House physician since 2013 and is an admiral in the United States Navy.

It is the government's second largest department, responsible for nine million military veterans in more than 1,700 government-run health facilities. The political appointees want a more comprehensive overhaul and to give veterans even more access to VA-funded care in the private sector.

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Shulkin, 58, led the Veterans Health Administration for two years under Obama, and was confirmed as Trump's nominee to head the VA on a 99-0 Senate vote.

"I appreciate the work of Dr. David Shulkin and the many great things we did together at Veterans Affairs, including the VA Accountability Act that he was helpful in getting passed", the president said in an additional statement released by the White House. "If he is not pleased, you'll know it", Gidley said on Fox News. "And stylistically he's not of the same world as President Trump".

The sudden departure comes as Mr Trump is seeking to expand the Veterans Choice programme, a campaign promise that major veterans' groups worry could be an unwanted step towards privatising VA health care.

The report found "serious derelictions" before and during the trip, much of which was spent sightseeing. Relations between Shulkin and his staff deteriorated.

He had agreed to reimburse the government more than 4,000 dollars after the VA's internal watchdog concluded last month that he had improperly accepted Wimbledon tennis tickets and that his then-chief of staff had doctored emails to justify his wife travelling to Europe with him at taxpayer expense. He was offered the job only after several others turned it down, and he was an Obama appointee - the lone holdover in the Trump White House.

The VA secretary oversees a health care and benefits system beset by challenges, including an alarming suicide rate of 20 veterans per day, and a shortage of mental health therapists, doctors and nurses.

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