In his forthcoming book, It Should Not be This Hard to Serve Your Country, David Shulkin, former secretary of veterans affairs, describes his surreal first meeting with Trump, and shares his concerns over the VA’s future. Shulkin says he was summoned to Trump Tower without any information to meet the newly elected president. According to Shulkin, the unconventional meeting was swarmed by Trump’s top advisers. “Having seen all of these people parodied relentlessly over the past several weeks on Saturday Night Live, I couldn’t help thinking that I’d stepped into a skit with Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon,” Shulkin writes in an excerpt from his book published in Time on Wednesday. The former VA secretary was later fired by Trump via tweet, one of the many cabinet members unceremoniously axed by the president. Shulkin has maintained that he was pushed out by political insiders trying to privatize the VA.
In the excerpt, Shulkin describes his time in the Trump administration as both productive, as well as “toxic, chaotic and subversive.” “With Americans polarized over almost every issue, I hoped that caring for veterans wouldn’t get entangled in the usual D.C. gamesmanship. The longer I was in the capital, the more I was sorely disappointed,” he writes. “Much of my tenure involved various factions pushing me to simply close the VA or at least large parts of it that weren’t working well. But I didn’t see how shutting down a system specifically designed to care for veterans could be in the veterans’ best interests,” reads the excerpt. “I am telling my story because, in my opinion, the VA is still in grave danger. Its doctors, its administrators and most importantly our veterans are at risk as never before.”