Barring the unexpected, Dr. David Shulkin is expected to have an easy time at his Senate confirmation hearing this week to become secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department.
Shulkin was appointed by former President Barack Obama in 2015 and quickly confirmed as the VA's undersecretary for health to lead the vast Veterans Health Administration.
But given initial response to his nomination, Shulkin won't get much flak from Senate Republicans. Shulkin has already met with Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who gushed about President Donald Trump's nominee.
“As the undersecretary for health at the VA, Dr. Shulkin is no stranger to the work that needs to be done to bring accountability to the department,” Isakson said in a website post. “I believe Dr. Shulkin to be a passionate veterans' advocate who will work to transform the VA and ensure our veterans get the timely, quality care and support they deserve.”
A statement on the website of Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), the ranking member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, said the senator pressed Shulkin during a one-on-one meeting about Trump's announced plans to privatize the VA and “shift resources away from VA hospitals and clinics.”
Tester also asked Shulkin to prioritize fixing the Veterans Choice program that enables more veterans to seek care at hospitals and physician offices outside the VHA.
But Tester noted that Shulkin endorsed a bill the senator authored last year, the Improving Veterans Access to Care in the Community Act, which aimed to fix problems with the Choice Program.
Shulkin also is seen as a booster of a plan to develop a digital health platform using cloud-based computer systems to improve internal and external information exchange throughout the VHA.