Ronny Jackson is shown here in a meeting Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, on April 17, 2018. Photo: Jon Tester
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Trump's pick to lead Department of Veterans Affairs withdraws amid doubts

Another one of President Donald Trump's nominees has dropped out of the confirmation process, leaving Native veterans without a key advocate in the nation's capital.

Ronny L. Jackson, who is the president's official physician, was slated to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, whose system of care has repeatedly been criticized as inadequate. But the White House withdrew his name after allegations about his conduct and questions about his experience surfaced on Capitol Hill.

The doubts caused the Republican-led Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to postpone a previously scheduled confirmation hearing for Jackson. The move had been supported by the panel's top Democrat.

“The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is postponing the hearing to consider the nominee to be secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in light of new information presented to the committee,” Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) said in a joint statement on Tuesday. “We take very seriously our constitutional duty to thoroughly and carefully vet each nominee sent to the Senate for confirmation. We will continue looking into these serious allegations and have requested additional information from the White House to enable the committee to conduct a full review.”

But even after Jackson vowed to fight on, and Trump came to his defense, Republicans slowly backed away from the nominee. Then Democrats released a document, posted by POLITICO, that explained some of the misgivings.

"Conversations with 23 colleagues and former colleagues of Rear Admiral Jackson, most of whom are still in uniform, have raised serious concerns about Jackson’s temperament and ethics, and cast doubt on his ability to lead the second largest agency in government and one tasked with the sacred mission of fulfilling our commitment to the men and women who have served our nation in uniform and their families," the summary prepared by Democratic staff reads.

According to the document, Jackson was known as “Candyman” among White House staff because he allegedly provided “whatever prescriptions they sought without paperwork.” The drugs allegedly included sleep aides and wakefulness medication commonly known as Provigil, apparently used to counteract the long working hours and long flights endured by employees.

Jackson also was accused of creating a hostile work environment, drinking while on the job and even becoming so intoxicated that he "wrecked a government vehicle,” the document read.

Trump had tapped Jackson to lead the department after he ousted former secretary David Shulkin, who had previously served in president Barack Obama's cabinet. Weeks before the firing -- announced on Twitter -- Shulkin addressed the National Congress of American Indians for the first time as the head of Veterans Affairs.

"Native Americans have fought in every U.S. war," Shulkin told the organization during its winter session in Washington, D.C., on February 14, "but they don't often get the credit they deserve."

"Veterans issues should not be political issues," Shulkin added. "Indian issues should not be political issues."

The department maintains an Office of Tribal Government Relations to deal with tribal veterans' issues and work with tribal governments. Key issues include a partnership with the Indian Health Service in which tribal veterans can seek care at IHS facilities closer to home rather than traveling father to VA ones. The VA reimburses the IHS for such services.

Tribes also have been working with the VA to establish cemeteries for their fallen warriors. The program enables survivors to keep their loved ones closer to home instead of at VA cemeteries further away.

Read More on the Story:
Ronny Jackson withdraws as veterans affairs secretary nominee (POLITICO April 26, 2018)
Ronny Jackson withdraws as Trump’s nominee to lead Veterans Affairs (The Washington Post April 26, 2018)
White House Withdraws Jackson Nomination for V.A. Chief Amid Criticism (The New York Times April 26, 2018)