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Zeldin: Shulkin was not ‘my number one pick’ to head VA

Rep. Lee Zeldin, a member of the House

Rep. Lee Zeldin, a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, on Wednesday offered a lukewarm review of Donald Trump's choice for secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Dr. David Shulkin. Credit: Ed Betz

WASHINGTON — Rep. Lee Zeldin, a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, gave a lukewarm review of President-elect Donald Trump’s choice Wednesday to run the much-criticized Department of Veterans Affairs, saying Dr. David Shulkin was not “my number one pick.”

The selection of Shulkin, currently the Veterans Affairs undersecretary for health, as the nominee to be Veterans Affairs secretary was announced at a news conference by Trump, saying, “He’s fantastic. He will do a truly great job.”

But Zeldin, the Shirley Republican, has not always been satisfied with answers provided by Shulkin since the former New York internist was appointed to his post by President Barack Obama in 2015 to fix the VA’s scandal involving its staff falsifying patient wait times.

Zeldin repeatedly pressed Shulkin last year for answers on the origin and repair of the Northport VA Hospital’s broken air conditioning and heating system, a problem that required staff to close two of its five operating rooms.

And in an April hearing, Zeldin grilled Shulkin on whether the VA had disciplined supervisors who told staff to falsify wait times at seven facilities in other states, at one point telling Shulkin, “We’re going in circles now.”

“He certainly wasn’t my number one pick to be the next secretary of Veterans Affairs,” Zeldin said in a statement.

“After several opportunities to interact with Dr. Shulkin these past two years, I’m confident that he is fully aware of the many challenges that currently exist,” Zeldin said. “What I am eager to be assured of, though, is that he is actually going to do everything that needs to be done about it.”

Before his VA appointment, Shulkin served as president at Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey and as president and CEO of Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan.

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