David Shulkin

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David Shulkin
David Shulkin official photo.jpg
Official portrait, 2017
9th United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs
In office
February 14, 2017 – March 28, 2018
PresidentDonald Trump
DeputyThomas G. Bowman
Preceded byBob McDonald
Succeeded byRobert Wilkie
Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Health
In office
July 6, 2015 – February 13, 2017
PresidentBarack Obama
Donald Trump
Preceded byRobert Petzel
Succeeded byPoonam Alaigh (acting)
Personal details
David Jonathon Shulkin

(1959-07-22) July 22, 1959 (age 63)
Highland Park, Illinois, U.S.
Political partyIndependent[1]
SpouseMerle Bari
EducationHampshire College (BA)
Drexel University (MD)

David Jonathon Shulkin (born July 22, 1959) is an American physician and former government official. In 2017, Shulkin became the ninth United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs and served under President Donald Trump. He was the Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Health from 2015 until 2017, appointed by President Barack Obama. On March 28, 2018, President Trump dismissed Shulkin from his position by tweet,[2] and announced that Physician to the President Ronny Jackson would be nominated as Shulkin's successor, although Jackson's nomination was withdrawn on April 26, 2018, after allegations surfaced of misconduct and mismanagement while serving in the White House.[3][4][5][6] He was succeeded by Under Secretary of Defense Robert Wilkie.

Early life[edit]

David Shulkin was born at the Fort Sheridan U.S. Army base in Highland Park, Illinois, to Mark Weiss Shulkin and Sonya Lee (née Edelman),[7] where his father was an Army psychiatrist.[8][9] Both of his grandfathers fought in World War I. He received a BA from Hampshire College in 1982, and an MD degree from Medical College of Pennsylvania (which has since merged into Drexel University) in 1986; he then did his medical internship at Yale School of Medicine, and his residency and fellowship in General Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Presbyterian Medical Center. He was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania.[10]


Shulkin specialized in health care management.[1] He has been described as one of the "high priests" of patient centered care.[1] Shulkin was the President and chief executive officer of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.[11] While there, Shulkin would walk the wards after midnight after he discovered the night shift was providing a lower quality of care.[1] He also was president of Morristown Medical Center and as vice president of Atlantic Health System Accountable Care Organization.[12]

He was the first Chief Medical Officer of the University of Pennsylvania Hospital and later at the University of Pennsylvania Health System,[13] Temple University Hospital, and the Medical College of Pennsylvania Hospital.[14]

His other academic positions have included Chairman of Medicine and Vice Dean at Drexel University College of Medicine, and Professor of Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.[15] Shulkin has been the editor of Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management and Hospital Physician, and has been on the editorial boards of several journals, including Journal of the American Medical Association. He founded and served as the chairman and CEO of DoctorQuality, Inc., a consumer-oriented information service.[16][17]

Shulkin has written several peer-reviewed journal articles and other professional publications.[18] In 1999, Shulkin started a pay for performance company called DoctorQuality, which ultimately failed.[1]

Veterans Affairs[edit]

In 2015, Shulkin left the private sector when he was named by President Barack Obama as Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Health in the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).[19][20][21][22] When his staff told him it would take ten months to organize a summit on combat veteran suicides, Shulkin told them that during the wait 6,000 veterans would die and to get it done in one month, which they then did.[1]

On January 11, 2017, Shulkin was nominated by President-elect Donald Trump as United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs.[23] Trump, who had first considered five others, nominated Shulkin after a recommendation by Ambassador David M. Friedman.[1] On February 13, 2017, the United States Senate unanimously confirmed Shulkin as the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs in a 100–0 vote,[24] making him the only cabinet nominee by President Trump to have unanimous consent.[25] He was the first non-veteran to hold the position.[26] In this position, Shulkin oversaw the government's second-largest agency, with over 350,000 employees and 1,700 facilities.[1] Shulkin hoped to increase reliance on private health care for routine procedures, like hearing aids, so the department could focus on its core mission of caring for the wounded.[1]

For President Trump's address to a joint session of Congress on February 28, 2017, Shulkin was the designated survivor in the line of succession of the president.[27]

In April 2017, Shulkin had every VA hospital and clinic begin publicly posting quality data and wait times.[1] He wanted to provide those with a less than honorable military discharge with free mental health care.[1]

In May 2017, behind closed doors, Shulkin asked his VA healthcare directors to get rid of in-house optometry and audiology services to veterans—instead farming out those services to private community care.[28]

In early July 2017, Shulkin announced that any settlement with an employee will require the approval of the undersecretary, assistant secretary or equivalent senior-level official. This effectively stopped all settlements.[29] Lawyer Debra D'Agostino said that this will increase litigation against the VA and taxpayers will be paying for the VA's defense of itself and any illegal actions of its leadership. D'Agostino also said that federal agencies found liable for discrimination or whistleblower retaliation are not penalized as severely as private companies as compensatory damages are limited and there are no punitive damages available.[29]

On March 28, 2018, Trump announced on Twitter that Shulkin had been fired[30] and would be replaced by appointee Robert Wilkie in the interim. Trump also announced that Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson would be nominated to replace Shulkin.[31]

Privatization of VA healthcare[edit]

Following his dismissal in March 2018, Shulkin highlighted the political pressure from the Trump White House to dismantle VA healthcare and send veterans to the private sector. In a New York Times editorial, Shulkin warned that "privatization is a political issue aimed at rewarding select people and companies with profits, even if it undermines care for veterans."[32] Much of the political push to privatize VA healthcare comes from the political advocacy group Concerned Veterans of America (CVA), which is backed by Charles and David Koch.[33] Privatization of VA healthcare is overwhelmingly opposed by veterans and veteran service organizations (VSO).[34] Political aides assigned to VA, including John Ullyot, Camilo J. Sandoval and Jake Leinenkugel, battled with Shulkin over the issue and advocated for his removal in an effort to coerce him to support privatization.[35][36] Shulkin's removal as head of the VA has renewed concerns among veterans that the Trump administration will privatize VA healthcare.[37]

European trip controversy[edit]

In September 2017, The Washington Post reported that Shulkin spent nearly half his time on a July 2017 international trip to Europe—which was paid for by taxpayers—sightseeing and shopping with his wife, Merle Bari.[38] Shulkin later told The Washington Post that he did "nothing inappropriate" on the trip, that the trip was taken primarily to attend a Five Eyes conference, and that personal visits to "various historic and other sites in London and in Denmark" were done "on nights, on weekends, the day before the conference started" and were "paid for by me".[39]

In February 2017 , a report by Michael J. Missal, the Inspector General of Veterans Affairs, concluded that Shulkin's staff had misled both the agency's ethics officials and the public about the nature of the eleven-day trip.[40][41] The report said that Shulkin's chief of staff, Vivieca Wright Simpson, had altered emails and had made false statements to make it look like Shulkin was receiving a Danish government award to justify his wife accompanying him on the taxpayer-funded trip. The Veterans Administration had paid over $4,300 for her airfare. The Inspector General said that the overall expense for the trip was at least $122,334. The report also said that Shulkin had inappropriately accepted tickets to Wimbledon worth thousands of dollars and had directed an aide to act as a "personal travel concierge" for the trip. The Inspector General referred his concerns about the potential criminality of the actions undertaken by Shulkin's chief of staff to the Department of Justice, which declined to prosecute.[42]

In an interview with National Public Radio the day after his dismissal, Shulkin said that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs has been invited to this conference for decades and that he gave three different lectures at this particular conference. Shulkin reiterated that the personal trips were taken outside the time of the conference was held. He said that the only expense incurred by his wife that was paid by the federal government was for her economy class airfare, which had been approved in advance. When the airfare expense was later questioned, Shulkin said he reimbursed the federal government for the cost. He also said that prior to his dismissal the Trump Administration had forbidden him from speaking to the media to respond to the accusations publicly.[43] The VA Inspector General report found no evidence that Shulkin was ever aware of the actions alleged to have been taken by the Chief of Staff. Furthermore, an internal VA Committee that reviewed the matter concluded that "there was no indication of fraud, misrepresentation or bad faith", on the part of Shulkin.[44]

Personal life[edit]

Shulkin is married to Merle Bari, a dermatologist.[45] They have two children, Daniel and Jennifer.[7] His daughter, Jennifer, won a gold medal in squash at the 2009 Maccabiah Games.[46] Shulkin is Jewish.[47]

Published works[edit]

External video
video icon After Words interview with Shulkin on It Shouldn't Be This Hard to Serve Your Country, November 2, 2019, C-SPAN
  • Shulkin, David J., M.D. (2008). Questions Patients Need to Ask: Getting the Best Healthcare. Xlibris, Corp. ISBN 978-1436367592.[48]
  • Shulkin, David J., M.D. (2019). It Shouldn't Be This Hard to Serve Your Country: Our Broken Government and the Plight of Veterans. PublicAffairs. ISBN 1541762657.

Awards and honors[edit]

  • Senior Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute in Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • National Health Policy Fellow, U.S. Senate Committee on Aging
  • Named one of the country's top Health care leaders for the next century by Modern Healthcare,[49]
  • Named One of the Hundred Most Powerful in Healthcare (ranked #86) by Modern Healthcare (2008).[50]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Philipps, Dave; Fandos, Nicholas (May 13, 2017). "New Veterans Affairs Chief: A Hands-On, Risk-Taking 'Standout'". The New York Times. p. A1. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  2. ^ Maegan Vazquez (April 2, 2018). "Shulkin says he was fired via Trump tweet". CNN. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  3. ^ "White House doctor steps back from Trump veterans job after controversy". Reuters. April 26, 2018. Retrieved February 4, 2020.
  4. ^ "Ronny Jackson withdraws as VA secretary nominee".
  5. ^ Donald Trump [@realdonaldtrump] (March 28, 2018). "I am pleased to announce that I intend to nominate highly respected Admiral Ronny L. Jackson, MD, as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs..." (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  6. ^ Fandos, Nicholas; Haberman, Maggie (March 28, 2018). "Veterans Affairs Secretary Is Latest to Go as Trump Shakes Up Cabinet". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 30, 2018.
  7. ^ a b Clarke, Sara (February 9, 2017). "10 Things You Didn't Know About David Shulkin". U.S. News & World Report.
  8. ^ "Everything You Need to Know About Trump's VA Pick". ABC News. January 12, 2017. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  9. ^ "Trump picks top vets health official as the next VA secretary". Military Times. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  10. ^ "Dr. David Shulkin". IBM Center for the Business of Government. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  11. ^ "Trump taps former Beth Israel CEO David Shulkin to lead VA". Advisory Board. January 12, 2017. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  12. ^ Westhoven, William (January 11, 2017). "Trump names former Morristown Medical president to head VA". Daily Record. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  13. ^ "David Shulkin Named Penn LDI Distinguished Health Policy Fellow". LDI. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  14. ^ Yen, Hope (January 11, 2017). "Former chief medical officer at Penn, Temple picked to lead VA". Philly Voice. Associated Press. Archived from the original on February 14, 2017. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  15. ^ Like Night and Day — Shedding Light on Off-Hours Care
  16. ^ Ludwig, Elisa. "Changing Systems, Changing Lives: David Shulkin, MD, MCP '86". Drexel University College of Medicine. Archived from the original on October 12, 2016.
  17. ^ Shane, Leo (March 18, 2015). "White House picks nominees for VA's top health, IT posts". Military Times. Archived from the original on January 12, 2017.
  18. ^ Levine, Daniel (January 11, 2017). "David Shulkin: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Heavy. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  19. ^ "Who Is David Shulkin? 4 Things To Know About Trump's Latest Appointment". CBS. January 11, 2017.
  20. ^ Lisa Rein (January 11, 2017). "David Shulkin tapped as Trump's VA secretary". The Washington Post.
  21. ^ Camila Domonoske, Trump Announces David Shulkin As Pick For Secretary Of Veterans Affairs NPR.org January 11, 2017
  22. ^ Trump Names Dr. David Shulkin to Head Veterans Affairs Bloomberg News January 11, 2017
  23. ^ Domonoske, C. (January 11, 2017). "Trump Announces David Shulkin As Pick For Secretary Of Veterans Affairs".
  24. ^ Slack, Donovan (February 13, 2017). "Senate confirms David Shulkin as Veterans Affairs secretary". USA Today. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  25. ^ Andrews, Wilson (March 20, 2017). "How Each Senator Voted on Trump's Cabinet and Administration Nominees". The New York Times. Retrieved March 28, 2017.
  26. ^ Lawrence, Quil (February 13, 2017). "Senate Confirms First Nonveteran To Lead VA". NPR. Retrieved February 16, 2017.
  27. ^ "VA Secretary David Shulkin chosen as designated survivor". ABC News. Retrieved February 4, 2020.
  28. ^ Krause, Benjamin. "Shulkin Says Get Rid Of VA Optometry, There Is A 'LensCrafters On Every Corner'". disabledveterans.org. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  29. ^ a b D'Agostino, Debra (November 9, 2017). "Nothing to celebrate: New efforts do nothing to fix mismanagement at the VA [Commentary]". Federal Times. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  30. ^ "Trump Ousts Shulkin From Veterans Affairs, Taps His Doctor". The New York Times. March 28, 2018. Archived from the original on March 30, 2018. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  31. ^ Rein, Lisa; Rucker, Philip; Wax-Thibodeaux, Emily; Dawsey, Josh (March 29, 2018). "Trump taps his doctor to replace Shulkin at VA, choosing personal chemistry over traditional qualifications". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved March 30, 2018.
  32. ^ David Shulkin (March 28, 2018). "David J. Shulkin: Privatizing the V.A. Will Hurt Veterans". The New York Times. Retrieved March 31, 2018.
  33. ^ VanDiver, Shawn (December 15, 2017). "Concerned Veterans for America - A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing". HuffPost. Retrieved April 12, 2018.
  34. ^ Phipott, Tom (June 23, 2016). "Vet Groups Uniting To Oppose Privatized Care, Defend VA". Military.com. Retrieved April 12, 2018.
  35. ^ "It's Killing the Agency: Ugly Power Struggle Paralyzes Trump's Plan to Fix Veterans Care". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 12, 2018.
  36. ^ Quil Lawrence; Jessica Taylor (March 28, 2018). "Trump To Replace VA Secretary David Shulkin". WGBH News. Retrieved April 12, 2018.
  37. ^ Fandos, Nicholas (March 29, 2018). "Veterans Affairs Shake-Up Stirs New Fears of Privatized Care". The New York Times. Retrieved March 31, 2018.
  38. ^ "VA chief took in Wimbledon, river cruise on European work trip: Wife's expenses covered by taxpayers". The Washington Post. September 29, 2017. Retrieved September 29, 2017.
  39. ^ "Transcript: Veterans in America – A Conversation with VA Secretary David Shulkin". The Washington Post. November 9, 2017. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
  40. ^ Office of Investigations (February 14, 2018). Administrative Investigation – VA Secretary and Delegation Travel to Europe (PDF) (Report). Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 25, 2019. Retrieved May 5, 2020. After a thorough investigation, OIG's findings included (1) the Chief of Staff's alteration of a document and misrepresentations to ethics officials caused Secretary Shulkin's wife to be approved as an 'invitational traveler,' which authorized VA to pay her travel costs (although only airfare was claimed); (2) Secretary Shulkin improperly accepted a gift of Wimbledon tickets and related hospitality; (3) a VA employee's time was misused as a personal travel concierge to plan tourist activities exceeding that necessary for security arrangements; and (4) travelers' documentation was inadequate to determine the trip's full costs to VA. The OIG did not assess the value of the trip to VA or determine whether the Europe travel, as conducted, was 'essential,' per VA policy.
  41. ^ "Watchdog: Aide to V.A. chief altered email to cover cost of Europe trip". NBC News. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  42. ^ Rein, Lisa (February 12, 2018). "Veterans Affairs chief Shulkin, staff misled ethics officials about European trip, report finds". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
  43. ^ King, Noel (August 27, 2020). "Interview with David Shulkin" (audio). Morning Edition. NPR.
  44. ^ Shulkin, David J. (2019). It Shouldn't Be This Hard to Serve Your Country:Our Broken Government and the Plight of Veterans. Public Affairs Publications. p. 285,320. ISBN 978-1541762657.
  45. ^ Wood, Sam (May 9, 2016). "Can Philadelphia's David Shulkin cure the VA?". The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  46. ^ Wins for the grandfather
  47. ^ Dolsten, Josefin (January 27, 2017). "Meet the top Jewish officials in the Trump administration". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  48. ^ Gandel, Cathie (May 15, 2009). "Ask the Tough Questions". AARP. Archived from the original on January 12, 2017.
  49. ^ "Healthcare Leaders for the Next Century", Modern Healthcare, September 15, 1997
  50. ^ The nominees for the 2008 '100 Most Powerful People in Healthcare' May 26, 2008

Further reading[edit]

  • "Recognizing Quality"- Disease Management Protocols at Core of A Pennsylvania Hospital's Award Winning Approach" – Modern Healthcare, February 2, 1998
  • "What Quality Measurements Miss" – Managed Care Interface, March 1997.
  • "Ten Ways Technology Can Make You Money" – Time magazine Guide to Personal Technology, April 1998

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Robert A. Petzel
Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Health
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former US Cabinet Member Order of precedence of the United States
as Former US Cabinet Member
Succeeded byas Former US Cabinet Member