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President Trump will meet this week with former House Veterans Affairs’ Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, a top contender to lead the Veterans Affairs agency, a senior White House official told the Washington Examiner Tuesday. The former Republican congressman from Florida has been discussed as a potential successor to ousted VA Secretary David Shulkin given his experience on the House panel and the likelihood that he would avoid major controversy during the Senate confirmation process.
MILITARY TIMES — Advocacy groups sued the White House on Monday to remove acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie from that role, arguing his appointment violated federal law. Wilkie, who also serves as the Defense Department’s under secretary for personnel and readiness, was named the acting head of VA last month when President Donald Trump dismissed then Secretary David Shulkin over Twitter.
VANITY FAIR — For months, Donald Trump has discussed replacing his chief of staff, John Kelly, who has attempted, with increasing futility, to rein in the president’s impulses since ascending to the job last year. For the past few weeks, Trump has often governed as if Kelly weren’t there, as evidenced by yesterday’s Fox & Friends interview, during which the president essentially undermined his own legal defense. The cringe-inducing telephone interview was precisely the kind of unscripted media appearance the chief of staff had made a point of preventing.
TASK & PURPOSE — Do you know that there are approximately 28,000 disabled Veterans who live outside of the U.S. who are excluded from receiving health care from the VA? Many of these Veterans are classified by the VA as 50% or more disabled. If they resided in the U.S., they could be entitled to non-service connected disability health care from the VA at no cost (depending upon their financial status); but because they live overseas they are flatly denied. The question is “Why?”
INSIDE HIGHER ED — Iowa’s Supreme Court has tossed out a lower court’s decision in the long-running legal battle over Ashford University’s eligibility to receive Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. The state’s approval agency in 2016 attempted to strike the for-profit university’s eligibility, citing a previous decision by Ashford to close its physical location in the state. The university and its holding company, Bridgepoint Education, sued to block that decision, which could have meant that it would no longer be able to enroll veterans nationwide, as it had registered for GI Bill eligibility in Iowa. Arizona, however, later granted Ashford that status. But the legal battle in Iowa continued.
POLITICO — A West Palm Beach doctor’s ties to Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago social circle have enabled him to hold up the biggest health information technology project in history — the transformation of the VA’s digital records system. Dr. Bruce Moskowitz, an internist and friend of Trump confidant Ike Perlmutter, who advises the president informally on vet issues, objected to the $16 billion Department of Veterans Affairs project because he doesn’t like the Cerner Corp. software he uses at two Florida hospitals, according to four former and current senior VA officials. Cerner technology is a cornerstone of the VA project.
TASK & PURPOSE — To hear President Donald Trump hear it, Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson is a fine naval officer and physician with no blemishes on his record, and his candidacy to run the Department of Veterans Affairs was scuttled by “vicious rumors” from scheming liberal politicians. There are a lot of problems with Trump’s narrative, but another issue was revealed Monday, and it may be the biggest of all: One of the key accusations against Jackson — that he publicly disclosed personal medical information of a high-profile patient without her knowledge, in violation of federal law — comes not from a liberal senator or an outside interest group, but the wife of Vice President Mike Pence.
CNN — To get away from the memories of war in Afghanistan — the violence, the unexpected danger, the rush of adrenaline and the hypervigilance that can come with post-traumatic stress disorder — Aaron Newsom started gardening. Since World War II, generations of veterans have found healing in horticulture. Digging in the dirt did that for Newsom, but the Marine, who served in an attack helicopter squadron, wanted more. He wanted to share this healing feeling with service members who may never even touch a spade, and he had an idea.
STARS AND STRIPES — Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, a White House physician, withdrew Thursday from consideration as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, leaving the big question: Who’s next? Though President Donald Trump is notoriously difficult to predict, here are some possible contenders.
MILITARY TIMES — As Veterans Affairs officials await news on the next possible pick to lead the department, they’re also sounding the alarm on the next challenge facing their agency: running out of money for a controversial health care program in coming weeks. On Friday, in a letter to lawmakers, acting Department Secretary Robert Wilkie said the VA Choice program is expected to run out of funding “in approximately the first two weeks of June.” Veterans participating in it will begin receiving letters early next month warning that the program could be shut down in early summer.
STARS AND STRIPES — A furious President Donald Trump on Saturday called for the resignation of the Democratic senator who assembled and released what he called “false” allegations that scuttled the nomination of the White House doctor who’d been in line to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. Trump stepped up his criticism of Montana’s Jon Tester, the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans’ Committee, in two tweets days after asserting that Tester “has to have a big price to pay” politically in the GOP friendly state for his leading role in Ronny Jackson’s failed VA bid. Tester faces a competitive re-election race this year.
TASK & PURPOSE — Two anonymous volunteers at Arlington National Cemetery are being lauded for their compassion on social media, after photos were posted of them carrying a 96-year-old North Carolina vet to visit his wife’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery. The vet was George Boone, who served as a B-25 pilot during World War II and became a prisoner of war when he was shot down over Romania in 1943, reported WTTG Fox.
MILITARY TIMES — Like so many American troops returning home from World War II, Bob Barger started working a new job and going to college. Once he settled into his career and raising a family, finishing school was no longer a priority. Now, 68 years since he last sat in a classroom, Barger is set to graduate from the University of Toledo this week after a review of his transcripts from the late 1940s showed he completed enough courses to qualify for an associate’s degree — a two-year diploma not offered when he was still in school.
VENTURA COUNTY STAR — Plans for new veterans housing in Ventura have taken a big step forward, with the City Council voting 6-0 to select a developer. With council member Matt LaVere absent, elected officials on Monday chose Community of Friends/U.S. Vets Development Team to build the project on 9.6 acres that the city owns just west of Highway 118 and Highway 126. The Los Angeles-based team’s plans include an array of community amenities and 122 residential units.
MILITARY TIMES — Veterans service organizations banded together in Washington last summer to convince Congress that it was time to expand education benefits. Now, on the tails of that victory, sealed into law as the Forever GI Bill, many of those same organizations are throwing their weight behind a new cause: changing the way service members are prepared for life after the military.