WASHINGTON — Senate leaders are set to vote Monday night on the confirmation of the newest Veterans Affairs secretary. Leaders of the largest veterans groups are pleading with them to stick to that schedule.
In a letter to Senate leadership late last week, the six largest veterans organizations asked for "any action" to get the top job at VA filled as quickly as possible, throwing their support behind President Trump's nomination of David Shulkin for the post.
"Today, VA is at a crucial moment in history with fundamental reforms underway but many challenges still remaining," the letter said. "However, to secure enduring and meaningful change, strong leadership is absolutely critical.
"Without swift action to confirm a VA Secretary, needed change could be delayed and veterans may once again be forced to wait too long to receive the benefits they have earned and deserve."
The frustration comes after a week where Senate Democrats delayed votes on a host of Cabinet nominees, voicing frustration with both the picks and the political process.
Shulkin, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, hasn't drawn the same opposition. The current head of VA health programs was approved unanimously by the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee just a week after his confirmation hearing, and veterans groups have largely praised his selection.
But White House officials have included Shulkin’s name in the list of nominees they feel are being unfairly slowed by lawmakers, even though he was one of the last picks by the president. If he is confirmed Monday night, the entire process will have taken less than five weeks to complete.
The letter from the veterans groups — The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America and Vietnam Veterans of America — notes that Shulkin was confirmed unanimously for the VA health job in July 2015 and hopes for a similar easy path this time.
"He has led the Veterans Health Administration through a difficult transition period by installing new leadership and implementing new reform plans to improve access and quality of care," it said. "Once confirmed as secretary, we are confident (Shulkin) will continue moving VA forward so that it can better meet the needs of America’s veterans, their families and survivors."
The vote on Shulkin’s nomination is scheduled for sometime after 7 p.m. on Monday. If confirmed, Shulkin will become the first non-veteran ever to hold the post.
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.