Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Vets Sue to Remove Acting VA Secretary

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. Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie’s Appointment was Unlawful and he should be Removed from the Position, according to a Suit filed Monday against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in D.C. Federal Court that claims Deputy Secretary Thomas Bowman was wrongly Bypassed for the Position. Advocacy Groups Democracy Forward and VoteVets brought the Suit on behalf of Veterans Samir Hamel and William Fischer.

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 Trump dismissed then Secretary David Shulkin over Twitter.

But Wilkie’s Appointment has raised concerns among multiple Veterans Groups, who have complained the Role should have gone to Deputy Secretary Thomas Bowman, the next Leader in line at the Department. Like Shulkin, Bowman in recent months has sparred with White House Officials on Policy Matters, but White House Officials have not yet said whether he will Lose his Job.

The Lawsuit, filed by VoteVets and Executive Branch Watchdog Democracy Forward, charges that by Bypassing Bowman, Trump Violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act along with other Federal Statutes. “The president has to adhere to federal law before he can make an appointment,” said John Lewis, Counsel for Democracy Forward. “He did not do that here.”

Wilkie’s move to Acting VA Secretary raises New Issues for the Pentagon Personnel Office. The Shakeup also Impacts Office that oversees Defense Health, Education Programs, Exchanges, and Commissaries. At issue is whether Shulkin was Officially Fired or Resigned last month. Under Federal Rules, the President can only go outside the Normal Chain of Command to Appoint a New Acting Secretary if the Prior Office Holder “dies, resigns, or is otherwise unable to perform the functions and duties of the office.”

White House Officials have said that Shulkin offered his Resignation, opening the door to Wilkie’s Appointment. Shulkin has insisted that he did Not Resign. Administration Officials have not made Public a Resignation Letter or other Document to support their Claim.

If successful, the Lawsuit would not only remove Wilkie from Office, replacing him with Bowman, but also Invalidate any Decisions or Contracts he has Authorized in his month at the Post.

Officials from VoteVets said they believe the Move to put Wilkie in Charge was designed to allow Individuals within the Administration to put forward a Series of Controversial Reforms with less Visibility, including Plans to Outsource more VA Care to the Private Sector. “Robert Wilkie never had hearings to examine his views of veterans’ care, or how he envisions the VA working,” said Will Fischer, Director of Government Relations for the Group. “This flies in the face of the entire system of checks and balances that federal statutes and our Constitution call for. By bypassing Deputy Secretary Bowman, and illegally moving someone from another department over to the VA to act as interim secretary, we believe that the Trump administration is trying to get a head start on its privatization efforts for the department, before hearings on a new secretary even happen.”

A Confirmation Hearing on a Permanent VA Secretary was Scheduled to take place last Week, before Allegations of Unprofessional Conduct arose regarding Nominee Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the White House Physician. He Withdrew his Name from consideration just days after Republicans and Democrats in the Senate agreed to Postpone that Hearing.

Trump has yet to name Jackson’s Replacement, a Delay which could leave Wilkie in the Acting Secretary Role well into the Summer. The last Acting VA Secretary to serve more than a Month in that Role was Sloan Gibson, Deputy Secretary at the Department when former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki Resigned. He held the Post for Two Months during the Confirmation process for Robert McDonald, then returned to the Deputy Role.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
Digg! StumbleUpon

No comments: