Deputy secretary of veterans affairs (VA) Scott Blackburn donated $500 to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign against President Donald Trump.
Blackburn is serving on an interim basis in the second-highest position at the department. He joined the VA in November 2014 as senior adviser to then-Secretary Robert McDonald, according to his official bio.
Blackburn donated $500 to Clinton’s presidential campaign on Feb. 25, 2016, Federal Election Commission campaign finance records show. Trump appointed him to his current job on Feb. 26, 2017.
The donation came four months after Clinton said problems at the VA are not as “widespread” as they are made out to be and that criticism of the agency comes from Republicans, not veterans frustrated by long wait times.
Clinton’s claim garnered immediate pushback from MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow on whose program the former Secretary of State made the comments. Maddow interjected during Clinton’s comment, noting “but in part because there has been real scandal. The problems at the VA seem so intractable.”
Blackburn was then supposed to be leading a “transformational journey”of the VA, according to his bio.
The Hill newspaper pushed back against Clinton’s claim, reporting that “extended wait times at VA hospitals have provoked public outrage.”
An inspector general’s report last year found that veterans in Phoenix, Ariz., waited 115 days on average for an initial doctor’s appointment, while official data claimed that the average wait was only 24 days. The report also found that 1,700 veterans were intentionally kept off patient rolls and 40 veterans died waiting for treatment at the Phoenix facility.
The VA did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group.
Trump called VA the “most corrupt” and “most incompetently run” agency and said during the 2016 campaign that the department’s leadership was rife with political hacks. After he won the election, however, the VA secretary was one of the last slots in his cabinet to be filled.
Trump eventually settled on promoting David Shulkin, who Obama had previously appointed as under secretary for health, to secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Some at the VA’s top levels have shown open disdain for Trump, who places a high value on loyalty. Shulkin’s speech writer Brandon Fureigh said in a December 2016 tweet: “I despise what [Trump] is doing to our country.” Fureigh is a politically appointed member of the senior executive service.
Obama’s VA undersecretary of benefits Allison Hickey, who resigned following her role in helping subordinates scheme to enrich themselves by taking advantage of a relocation incentive fund, was returned to the department to help choose her replacement.
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