Trump is letting members of his private resort club — who have no experience in the military or government — secretly call the shots at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
In an unprecedented occurrence that makes a mockery out of transparency and accountability, three Trump cronies with no experience in government or the military are secretly exerting "sweeping influence" over the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs.
The shadowy triumvirate is made up of a reclusive movie studio executive, a private attorney, and a Palm Beach doctor who helps his wealthy clients obtain "concierge" medical care.
All three men are members of Trump's Mar-a-Lago private Florida resort club. And together they "they have leaned on VA officials and steered policies affecting millions of Americans," according to a shocking new report from ProPublica.
In other words, Trump has essentially given three private citizens control of the VA, forcing government officials to answer to men with no experience in veterans' affairs — and men who are not being held publicly accountable for their actions.
"The arrangement is without parallel in modern presidential history," ProPublica notes. The men "have remained hidden except to a few VA insiders, who have come to call them “the Mar-a-Lago Crowd.” One former administration official tells that ProPublica that VA executives have to go down to Mar-a-Lago to "kiss the ring" of the three men.
“None of these people were confirmed by the Senate, none have even interviewed for jobs," complains Will Fischer, Iraq war veteran and director of government relations for VoteVets, in a statement to Shareblue Media. "To put veterans care in their hands, when they’re often only trying to benefit themselves and their families, is malfeasance. It is now up to Secretary [Robert] Wilkie to clean house, and make sure that the people working on veterans care, for the administration, have actually been approved by the Senate to do so.”
By all indications, the three Trump cronies — Marvel Entertainment Chairman and CEO Isaac "Ike" Perlmutter, Palm Beach doctor Bruce Moskowitz, and lawyer Marc Sherman — are doing a disastrous job, as the VA reels under Trump. Indeed, perhaps no government agency has suffered as much from Trump's incompetent leadership than has the VA.
In May, New York Times documented the “chaos” that has engulfed the VA under Trump, and particularly its medical system. As he has “plunged the department into turmoil,” doctors are burning out and veterans are being left behind.
“You’ve got a huge vacuum of leadership,” former VA Secretary Robert McDonald told the Times.
"I’ve been doing this 30 years, and it’s the worst it’s ever been,” added Dr. Murray Altose, former chief of staff at the VA hospital in Cleveland. He noted that younger staffers are especially concerned that the upheaval could hit close to home. “They don’t know if they have a future here.”
The VA has been hit with a mass exodus of longtime officials.
The ProPublica's report on the shadowy trio of men essentially running the VA out of Mar-a-Lago now puts some of that internal chaos into context.
Recall that after Trump fired VA Secretary David Shulkin via Twitter, he tried to install his White House doctor, Ronny Jackson, into the top VA leadership role. But that turned into a spectacular failure.
At the time, the White House couldn't offer any reason for why a doctor with zero management experience would be qualified to run the sprawling, $185-billion federal agency that has been beset by performance problems for years.
Jackson’s nomination was quickly doomed when more than 20 active and retired military members came forward to complain about Jackson’s workplace behavior. He was accused of overprescribing medications and being intoxicated on the job, as well as creating a toxic work culture.
If Trump is trying to decimate the VA, he's doing a good job of it.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.