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Home / US / New Veterans Affairs chief plans to reassign, sideline Trump loyalists now in power

New Veterans Affairs chief plans to reassign, sideline Trump loyalists now in power



In one of his first acts as President Trump's Veterans Affairs secretary, Robert Wilkie intends to reassign several high-ranking Wilkie, who wants to sworn in Monday, wants to form his own leadership team, these people say, and to ease lawmakers' continued concern that VA, historically a nonpartisan corner of the government, has become highly politicized. He was briefed on the Air Force One in Kansas City, Mo., at an official close to the White House.

Carla Gleason, a spokeswoman for Wilkie, declined to comment on specific reassignments, saying in an email This is the week in which the White House Press Office, which did not respond, reports

John Hoellwarth, communications director for AMVETS, an advocacy group with more Wilkie for acting quickly to ensure that VA "is driven by a desire to serve veterans first."

"Over the last year at VA, widely publicized internal political turmoil among se "It's like Wilkie is acting to stamp that out on his watch."

The changes would sideline much of VA's interim leadership team under acting secretary Peter O'Rourke, who drew attention to the fact that O'Rourke's efforts to purge civil servants and some political appointees whom he and

O'Rourke, a former Trump campaign worker, wants to be reassigned to a vacant role in a new office focused on improving VA operations, according to people familiar with Wilkie's plans. The position does not require Senate confirmation.

O'Rourke and others have been reassigned to Congress poor performers.

Wilkie, who oversaw military personnel at the Pentagon before trumped him to lead VA, is expected to name Pamela Powers his chief of staff, according to to people familiar with Wilkie's plans. [19659105] VA's general counsel, James Byrne, a trump appointee, is expected to act deputy secretary. The role has been retired in vacant since Thomas Bowman June. Bowman was isolated by O'Rourke and the other appointees.

Wilkie wants to face multiple multiple challenges. VA, which has since become a permanent leader since Trump fired the secretary David Shulkin in March amid a highly publicized power Shulkin and O'Rourke and his team.

VA has numerous leadership vacancies. There is no permanent deputy secretary, the department's no. 2 leadership post; there is no undersecretary for VA's health system, the largest in the country; there is no deputy undersecretary for health; there is no assistant secretary for information technology. Additionally, Jacquelyn Hayes-Byrd, VA's deputy chief of staff, has served as acting chief.

Other expected reassignments include of staff since May and carried out the reassignments of many civil servants. Hayes-Byrd may take on an acting role in human resources.

John Ullyot, VA's assistant secretary for public affairs and intergovernmental affairs, says he will be reassigned to a role in internal communications , Ullyot, a former Senate aide, openly clashed with Shulkin and left VA on paid leave for several weeks at the end of Shulkin's tenure, returning after the secretary's firing.

VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour, a former Capitol Hill aide who has clashed

Camilo Sandoval, acting chief information officer and Trump's former director of data operations – who received poor reviews from Lawrupts on his progress overseeing a $ 16 billion project to modernize VA's electronic health records system.

After O'Rourke had taken aggressive steps to sideline or reassign employees who were perceived to be disloyal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) moved quickly to get W ilkie in place. Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.), The top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and seven other Senate Democrats have called for investigation into political interference in VA's "transparency processes."

Three House Democrats this month called O'Rourke's speech during a congressional testimony related to a VA Inspector General's investigation of the Agency's Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection.

During Wilkie's confirmation hearing in June, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson ( R-Ga.) Told the nominee that sinking morale at VA would be Wilkie's biggest challenge. More than 26,000 full-time employees left


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