April 1 (UPI) — Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin said Sunday he did not resign from his position with Trump administration.
Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press Shulkin said he didn’t sign a letter of resignation and learned of his dismissal on a call with White House chief of staff John Kelly who told him “the president had decided that he needed to make a change.”
“I came to fight for our veterans and I had no intention of giving up,” Shulkin said. “There would be no reason for me to resign. I made a commitment, I took an oath, and I was here to fight for our veterans.”
President Donald Trump replaced Shulkin with his White House physician Admiral Ronny L. Jackson on Wednesday, following weeks of speculation he would be the next member of Trump’s Cabinet to be ousted.
Shulkin said he spoke with Trump on the phone Tuesday, adding his dismissal came as “somewhat of a surprise” as their conversation granted no indication he would be replaced.
“We talked a lot about issues the VA that were important and how we could continue to make progress on policy issues,” Shulkin said. “In fact, we had set up a meeting for the very next day where I was going to meet with him at 11 in the morning.”
A day after his dismissal Shulkin said he disagreed with the Trump administration’s plans to privatize the Department of Veterans Affairs and that advocates for privatization within the White House saw him as an “obstacle” who “had to be removed.”
Trump thanked Shulkin for his service on Wednesday, but told an audience in Ohio the next day he “wasn’t happy with the speed with which our veterans were taken care of.”
During an interview with CNN’s State of the Union Sunday, Shulkin said he didn’t believe Trump was the reason for his dismissal.
“I don’t think that this was the president,” he said. “The president is committed to improving the care for veterans. These appointees had a belief that there was a different way to do that than I did … these individuals, when they didn’t see that their way was being adopted, used subversive techniques to change the leadership at VA.”
Shulkin said he respected Trump’s “right and ability to change his mind” regarding his position with the White House.
“He needs to have people around him that he’s comfortable with, and he made the decision to make a change,” he said.