President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly looking to have his cabinet set very soon but there’s a role that a senior transition official described to ABC News as the “most difficult” to fill — Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary. With much work to be done to reform the VA, there are many factors to consider and Trump is well aware of the weight of his decision.
ABC News reported:
Contenders for the VA job include former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin; former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown; Pete Hegseth, the former chief executive of the conservative Concerned Veterans for America; and Adm. Michelle Howard, the first African-American woman to command a U.S. Navy ship.
Trump’s pick will be responsible for managing the government’s second-largest department and a national health care system that serves more than 6.6 million veterans and beneficiaries each year.
Trump made the overhaul of the VA a major point of his campaign and the decision as to who will head it carries a great deal of weight. Spokesman Sean Spicer discussed the VA during a Thursday call with reporters:
“This is an area he cares deeply about, reforming the VA.” Spicer added that this is “an area that’s near and dear to his heart and one that he really wants to make sure is addressed appropriately, quickly and successfully.”
One issue is whether or not Trump should keep the current VA Secretary Bob McDonald. Trump’s transition team reportedly wants to clean house but some veterans groups disagree.
“Transforming an agency as large and diverse as VA will take a continuous commitment from leadership over the course of many years,” a letter written to Trump and his transition team from a coalition of 20 veterans groups explained.
“As you make your selection for VA Secretary, then, we advocate for an approach that recognizes and builds upon current progress. Given the challenges we face, we cannot afford to start over.”
Bill Rausch, the executive director of Got Your 6, explained that now may not be the time to start over and that the “window of opportunity” to make big changes with a GOP controlled Congress could be lost in the overhaul:
“If we bring in a new VA leader who is going to take a year, two years to get up to speed,” he said. “We could miss that window of opportunity.”
Top veterans’ advocates have reportedly expressed their belief in interviews that McDonald and Trump have quite a bit in common. McDonald, a registered Republican who was previously CEO of Proctor & Gamble, could potentially fit in quite well with Trump if given the chance to run the VA with the changes Trump has proposed which would allow him to get things done.
“They’re both businessmen from outside the government that have a different perspective,” Garry Augustine, the executive director of Disabled American Veterans, explained. “If he wasn’t already secretary, president-elect Trump would probably be looking at him.”