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Obama Appointees Still Running the Show at Trump’s VA

Obama-era appointees remain in top posts at the Department of Veterans Affairs three months into Donald Trump’s presidency. This includes Allison Hickey, disgraced former undersecretary for benefits, who is now helping choose her successor, The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group has learned.

Then-candidate Trump called the VA the “most corrupt” and “most incompetently run” agency and said the leadership was rife with political hacks. Yet the panel picked to select candidates for undersecretary positions is staffed with Obama holdovers and, in Hickey’s case, a VA official forced to resign under fire.
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The top contender for Hickey’s old job is Thomas Murphy, one of two authors of the notorious 2013 “fast letter” that instructed benefits offices nationwide to put current dates on old disability claims.

Murphy played an integral role in the wait-time scandal that upended the agency and which Trump has promised to fix. The letter dealt with how disability compensation claims were processed and concealed official statistics regarding how long vets wait for appointments. The date changes allowed VA managers to claim improvements without actually fixing problems.

The VA inspector general concluded the letter forced staff “to adjust the dates of claims for un-adjudicated claims found in claims folders to reflect a current date,” which rendered unreliable the “timeliness measures for processing claims.”

As Trump approaches his 100th day in the Oval Office, Republican-leaning veterans activists and policy aides feel “shut out” and “confused,” sitting on the sidelines, veterans-issue consultant Rory Riley told The Daily Caller News Foundation. They want an opportunity from the VA’s new chief executive to enact long-sought reforms, said Riley, a former aide to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Their confusion began in January when, despite Republicans’ control of Congress, Trump promoted David Shulkin, an Obama VA appointee, to the department’s top job instead of someone from outside the department.

Murphy became a top contender for Hickey’s old job despite his nomination coming from President Barack Obama and falling on deaf ears in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Hickey resigned in 2015 after helping two subordinates transfer to lower-profile jobs with no pay reduction and generous relocation benefits. Her abrupt resignation meant she no longer had to testify to Congress about her involvement in the relocation scam.

Hickey is on the selection panel interviewing candidates for the undersecretary position. Federal law allows VA secretaries to appoint a former incumbent to the panel “if the Secretary determines that it is desirable for such person to be a member … ”

A VA spokesman declined to respond when The Daily Caller News Foundation asked why Shulkin put Hickey on the panel.

VA Deputy Secretary Scott Blackburn, another Obama-era holdover, chairs the panel. Other candidates besides Murphy are Curtis Coy, deputy undersecretary for economic opportunity in Obama’s VA, and Al Poteet, a former VA regional director and VA official in previous Republican administrations.

Poteet, who was a Trump campaign volunteer in the Texas primaries, is the only candidate who appears to share the new president’s political views.

“Many veterans thought that Trump was different given some of the specific campaign promises he made, particularly about a White House hotline and the need for greater accountability,” Riley told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Thus far, neither of those things have materialized.”

She said the Republican VA activists and policy aides are open to bipartisanship and not opposed to Shulkin, but they worry that a trend is emerging of agency insiders perpetuating the status quo.

“A one-off appointee is one thing, i.e., maybe Shulkin really was the best person for the job. But, now with [Hickey] involved in the selection and talk of nominating Tom Murphy or Curtis Coy … many conservatives rightly feel that they are getting the opposite of what they voted for.”

Shortly after the election, Ed Ledford, a top speechwriter for the VA, tweeted, “Welcome to the world of fascism” and said he hadn’t “felt this bad since 9/11, and I was in the Pentagon,” the Washington Examiner reported.

Brandon Fureigh, who is now Shulkin’s speechwriter, said in a December 2016 tweet, “I despise what [Trump] is doing to our country.” Prior to joining the VA, Fureigh worked for the Democratic National Committee-affiliated Organizing for America, which was formed after Obama’s 2008 victory to encourage public support for his policies, particularly Obamacare.

Fureigh has also worked for the Truman National Security Project, an organization to “train progressives to … make their case in the public square.”

Kayla Williams, an Obama appointee as director of the Center for Women Veterans who has been retained by Trump’s VA, also worked for the Truman group and boasted about attending the anti-Trump Women’s March. Her center lists only four activities since 2010.

Tim Lawson, who hosts podcasts for the VA, has repeatedly mocked Trump.

In March, a San Francisco VA hospital promoted the book of liberal journalist Suzanne Gordon, who has written pieces filled with union-backed talking points like “Lack of Funding Is The Real VA Scandal.” Gordon argues that the VA is unfairly “under siege” even though it “accomplishes its difficult mission … far better than most private hospital systems.”

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The post Obama Appointees Still Running the Show at Trump’s VA appeared first on The Daily Signal.

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Filed under: Economic/Financial Collapse, Government Corruption, Government Waste, Main Stream Media Bias, Political Campaigning, Politics, Problems of Big Government, Restoring America

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