VA chief on Cabinet meeting: We weren't told to do it
Posted June 13
There was no script for President Donald Trump's first full Cabinet meeting, Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin said Tuesday.
Cabinet members were "absolutely not" instructed in advance of the Monday gathering to heap praise on the President, Shulkin said on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront."
"The President doesn't script the Cabinet and we're given the ability to say what's on our mind," Shulkin said. "People were not given instructions, but people were not used to knowing each other."
During the meeting Cabinet members, including Vice President Mike Pence and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, lauded the first five months of Trump's presidency. Priebus thanked Trump for "the opportunity and the blessing that you've given us to serve your agenda and the American people."
Shulkin said the meeting was "very productive," and that he was able to discuss how the Cabinet could help the VA advance its agenda.
'A very good meeting'
"It was a very good meeting actually," Shulkin said. "We had a chance ... to talk about issues in depth."
One issue President Trump campaigned on was allowing veterans to get private medical care paid for by the government. The Veterans Choice Program currently in place allows veterans to receive health care in their communities, but with some restrictions.
Shulkin said he will be working to lessen restrictions in the current program.
"We're going to be working with Congress and with the President's support to change the choice program, hopefully this summer, through legislation to open up choice so that veterans don't have those restrictive rules that they've had in the past," he said.
Trump kept his promise about installing a White House hotline for veterans, Shulkin said.
"We're giving information on a daily basis over to the White House so that they're informed," Shulkin said. "That's how we're keeping the President updated."
Shulkin was sworn in as the ninth VA chief in February after being nominated by Trump.