The Latest: Shulkin: Trump ‘deeply Engaged' on Vets' Issues

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on VA Secretary David Shulkin’s “State of the VA” report (all times local):

12:55 p.m.

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin says President Donald Trump is “deeply engaged” on veterans’ issues and willing to provide funding support to strengthen VA services.

Shulkin spoke at a White House briefing on the “state of the VA.”

He says both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are “impatient and anxious” to move forward on improving the VA.

Trump’s budget proposal calls for a 3.7 percent increase in total VA funding. It calls for $29 billion over the next decade for expansion of the Choice program, which would allow veterans to seek outside medical care from private doctors. It would pay for it in part by cutting some disability benefits for elderly veterans.

Major veterans’ groups oppose the cuts. The American Legion says the funding trade-off is “stealth privatization.”


12:10 p.m.

President Donald Trump’s promised White House hotline for veterans’ complaints will be soon up and running.

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin says a “soft launch” of the hotline begins Thursday. He is seeking to have it fully operational by Aug. 15.

The hotline’s phone number is 855-948-2311.

An automated greeting on Wednesday welcomed callers to the “White House-VA veteran complaint hotline” and notes it is operational Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time. It is closed on federal holidays.

During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly pledged a 24-hour hotline so veterans’ complaints will not “fall through the cracks.”

Shulkin spoke at a White House news briefing on the “state of the VA.”


11:45 a.m.

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin says employee accountability at the VA is a “broken” process.

At a White House briefing, Shulkin said the department must wait at least a month under current law before it can discipline an employee for misconduct or poor performance.

He says as a result there are currently 1,500 disciplinary actions pending.

Shulkin says that means the government is paying VA employees even though they are “violating our core values.”

He cites cases in which VA employees who watched porn at work or were convicted for DUI are still working.

Shulkin urged the Senate to pass legislation to make it easier to dismiss employees.

He was speaking on the “state of the VA,” having completed his first 100 days as VA secretary.


11:30 a.m.

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is warning the VA is “still in critical condition” despite efforts to reduce wait times for medical appointments and expand care in the private sector.

In a “State of the VA” report released Wednesday, he points to decades of disrepair and bloated bureaucracy.

He offers a blunt diagnosis: “There is a lot of work to do.”

Veterans can get “same-day” services at medical centers but are still waiting too long for new appointments at about 30 locations nationwide. Many primary care centers are understaffed. Inventory systems at several facilities are woefully out of date, and employee accountability is “clearly broken.”

Shulkin says the VA had about 1,500 disciplinary actions against employees pending, citing legal requirements that it wait weeks before taking action for misconduct.

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