Trump's Pick for VA Secretary Expected Soon

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the American Legion National Convention, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, in Cincinnati. American Legion photo
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the American Legion National Convention, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, in Cincinnati. American Legion photo

President-elect Donald Trump was expected to make his choice for Veterans Affairs Secretary known, possibly today, amid controversy among veterans service organizations over the pick and the direction of the $180 billion-a-year cabinet agency.

Trump has been unpredictable during the transition but members of his transition team said earlier this week that the president-elect would be announcing more appointments before Christmas and sources in the veterans community said the VA choice could come Friday.

At Mar-a-Lago, Trump's palatial Florida estate and winter retreat, the President-elect met Tuesday with Dr. Delos "Toby" Cosgrove, president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, who withdrew from consideration for the VA post when VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned over scandals at the agency.

Cosgrove reportedly was the frontrunner to take over the Department of Veterans Affairs. He is an Air Force veteran who served as a major in Danang during the Vietnam war and earned a Bronze Star.

Trump also met Tuesday with Luis Quinonez, founder of a healthcare company serving the government and the private sector. Quinonez later told Univision he was under consideration for the VA post.

More than 20 veterans and advocacy groups have expressed alarm over some of the names that have been floated for the VA post and have called on Trump to consider keeping current VA Secretary Robert McDonald on the job.

Separately, members of the Trump transition team also met earlier this month with the "Big Six" veterans service organizations, including the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, AmVets, the Disabled American Veterans, the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Vietnam Veterans of America.

Two of the VSOs, AmVets and the DAV, later urged Trump to consider keeping McDonald.

The Big Six have also expressed concerns about efforts to privatize VA health care and Trump's campaign pledge to offer veterans the option of seeking treatment at the hospital of their choosing,

Trump also pledged that his VA choice would be a "person of great competence" and "not a political hack." He also said that he would set up a hotline at the White House that vets could call with complaints about treatment.

Others reportedly under consideration for the VA post were: Sarah Palin, the former Republican governor of Alaska governor and candidate for vice president; Jeff Miller, the retiring Republican chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs; Scott Brown, a former Republican senator from Massachusetts; and Pete Hegseth, a Fox News contributor and former chief executive of Concerned Veterans for America.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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