“This is an area that he cares deeply about, reforming VA and making sure the person who comes in has the appropriate skill set to address the many challenges,” transition team spokesman Sean Spicer said Thursday, according to ABC News. “This is an area near and dear to his heart.”
Jason Miller, transition team communications director, said the pick is taking a while because of the importance Trump places on veterans.
“This position is so important to make sure that we get right,” Miller said. “Not only is there an unwieldy bureaucracy to deal with, but we’re talking about the lives of people who have gone and sacrificed everything on behalf of this country.”
Trump is looking for a candidate capable of navigating a complex bureaucracy and instituting heavy-hitting reforms, according to Miller.
The VA is the second largest agency in the federal government.
Trump is apparently still considering multiple candidates for the position and has given himself until the end of the week to make the final call. So far, he’s filled 13 out of 15 cabinet positions.
The main contenders for the position are: former GOP Sen. Scott Brown, Pete Hegseth, who served as CEO of Concerned Veterans of America and Navy Adm. Michelle Howard.
Hegseth met with Trump Thursday for a second time, and he’s a favorite pick among whistleblowers, whereas veterans advocacy organizations are pushing for Trump to consider keeping current VA Secretary Robert McDonald on board. Twenty veteran-related groups wrote a letter to Trump, urging him to keep McDonald, so that reforms initiated during his time in the position don’t go by the wayside.
Several of these veterans’ groups are upset that Trump hasn’t bothered to meet with them.
“He’s met with Kanye West and Leonardo DiCaprio, but hasn’t met with the American Legion or IAVA [Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America],” Paul Rieckhoff, CEO and founder of IAVA, told ABC News.
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