Trump to nominate NC’s Wilkie to head Department of Veterans Affairs

Former adviser to Tillis and other state politicians grew up in Fort Bragg

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders gives a ceremonial check, representing a donation from President Donald Trump to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), to acting Secretary of the VA Robert Wilkie during the daily briefing at the White House on May 17. (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump said on Friday he will nominate Robert Wilkie — who served under North Carolina U.S. Sens. Jesse Helms and Thom Tillis, and Rep. David Funderburk — to be secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, replacing David Shulkin, who was pushed out amid alleged ethics problems.

Wilkie, 55, has been acting secretary of the department since Trump fired Shulkin in March over concerns about unauthorized travel expenses. He grew up in Fort Bragg, where his father was an Army officer. He is a graduate of Reid Ross High School in Fayetteville and earned his bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University.

The Republican president’s first choice to replace Shulkin, Trump’s physician Ronny Jackson, withdrew from consideration last month after allegations that he had been lax with prescription drugs and drank alcohol on the job.

Jackson denied the allegations but faced questions in the Senate confirmation process over whether he had enough experience for the job.

Wilkie successfully went through the Senate confirmation process last year after Trump nominated him to be undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. He also previously worked under former national security advisers Condoleeza Rice and Stephen Hadley, and Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.).

The veterans agency has long been criticized for the quality of care it provides and the red tape that veterans encounter.