Government and Regulations

Senate Confirms New VA Under Secretary for Health

Dr. David J. Shulkin vows to "fix the access problem" at the VA as he takes over the role previously filled by Dr. Carolyn Clancy.


The VA officially has a new under secretary for health. David J. Shulkin, MD, was approved by Senate voice vote on June 23, 2015. Dr. Shulkin replaces Dr. Carolyn Clancy, assistant deputy under secretary, who has been serving as interim under secretary since May 2014 when Dr. Robert Petzel stepped down.

Dr. Shulkin was nominated for the position in March by President Obama. Initially, his nomination was blocked due to an unresolved issue regarding reserve pilots and Agent Orange exposure. Once VA came to the decision that those veterans would qualify for full benefits, Dr. Shulkin’s nomination was put up for the Senate vote.

At a May 5 Senate hearing before he was confirmed in his new position, Dr. Shulkin said he planned to revamp the VA health care system and “fix the access problem” if confirmed in this new role. “We all agree: The status quo is not acceptable,” Dr. Shulkin said.

Dr. Shulkin will likely continue much of the reform work that Dr. Clancy had been directing in her interim capacity. Dr. Clancy sat down with Federal Practitioner earlier this year to outline a “Blueprint for Excellence” to respond to access problems and to improve the veteran experience.

“We have the incredible privilege of serving people who essentially wrote a blank check on our behalf when they agreed to serve the country,” Dr. Clancy told Federal Practitioner. “Access is not something that, for the most part, is monitored closely in the private sector. It is certainly not publicly reported. We are making a very, very strong commitment, not just to improving, but to being able to show people the results.”

Like VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald, Dr. Shulkin will be coming to the VA from the private sector. Dr. Shulkin has been president of Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey since 2010. Before taking on that role, he was the president and chief executive officer at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

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