WASHINGTON — Former White House adviser Darin Selnick, who sparred behind the scenes with former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin before the latter’s firing, is returning to work with Concerned Veterans for America to lobby for more department reforms.
Selnick, a polarizing figure within the veterans community who nonetheless enjoyed significant stature in President Donald Trump’s administration, will join the group as a senior adviser. He will not do any executive branch lobbying, per rules regarding his previous role, but expects to be an active voice on Capitol Hill and the broader public debate in the months ahead.
That will put him back in the middle of the controversy over how much of veterans’ medical care outside the VA should be covered by taxpayer funds, and whether that amounts to privatization of the department’s mission.
Later today, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee will vote on the VA MISSION Act, which would dramatically rewrite the department’s community care program rules. The measure has the support of most major veterans service organizations and CVA.
Selnick worked extensively on the issue during his 14-plus months in the administration. His previous work with CVA earned him opposition from Capitol Hill Democrats and several veterans organizations, but also support from Hill Republicans.
He was also among the group of administration officials labeled by Shulkin as “subversives” in the weeks leading up to the former secretary’s firing by Trump.
Shulkin said political operatives within the administration were working to privatize VA health care for the benefit of outside companies. Selnick called those accusations paranoid fabrications, and said that Shulkin lost sight of the president’s campaign promises to broaden health care access for veterans.
Despite that, both men backed the broad parameters of the current House plan. Selnick said one of his main goals in the months ahead will be to ensure that it is implemented properly once lawmakers pass it into law.
“The role for CVA and the other VSOs is to be a watchdog, make sure what is passed by Congress is actual carried out in the right way,” he said. “If it’s going to be successful, it needs to be implemented right.”
Selnick left his post in the administration in March, just days after Shulkin’s firing. He said the move was in the works for months and unrelated to the VA leadership controversy.
CVA — which has been criticized by legacy veterans groups for its ties to the conservative Koch brothers network — was largely kept outside of administration discussions during Barack Obama’s presidency but has enjoyed a closer relationship with Trump’s White House and Department of Veterans Affairs.
That includes Trump’s frequent contact with Fox News personality Pete Hegseth, former leader of the group and a frequently rumored candidate for the open VA secretary post.
In a statement, CVA Executive Director Dan Caldwell praised Selnick for his “extensive knowledge of veterans issues and experience working at the VA during both the Bush and Trump administrations,” noting that will help guide the group moving forward.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.