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Kaine and Warner express deep concerns about Trump's Veterans' Affairs nominee

Virginian-Pilot - 4/25/2018

April 25--Virginia's two U.S. senators, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, expressed grave concerns Wednesday about Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson's suitability to lead the Veterans Affairs Department.

The Democrats, who represent one of the nation's largest concentrations of active-duty military and veterans, wouldn't comment on how they might vote on Jackson's nomination but said the White House doctor has not overcome their unease.

The nomination of Jackson, who is President Donald Trump's physician, stalled after members of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee delayed his confirmation hearing because of complaints about improper behavior.

Montana Sen. Jon Tester, the top Democrat on the committee, told National Public Radio on Tuesday that members of the military reported that Jackson had improperly handed out prescription drugs, was drinking on the job and created a hostile work environment within his White House staff.

Kaine said in a conference call with reporters that he already had concerns about Jackson's lack of managerial experience to oversee the VA's massive and troublesome bureaucracy.

"These allegations that go more towards character and treatment of others add a whole separate level of concerns surrounding this nomination. I still view these as allegations and he has to respond to them," Kaine said. "We don't question his qualifications as a physician."

Kaine said he has not heard from veterans this week regarding the recent allegations but several have contacted him with worries about Jackson's ability to manage the VA.

"There are some major fixes that we still need to make at the VA," Kaine said, noting that veterans are still waiting too long for medical appointments and disability claims take too long to process.

Warner did not address the recent allegations in an email but said he wants assurances from Jackson that he has the proper leadership skills and would oppose any "misguided attempts" to turn over the health care of veterans to private businesses.

"Since this nomination was first announced, I've been concerned that Admiral Jackson, while a practicing physician, does not have the management experience that would typically be expected for someone looking to run the second-largest department in the federal government," Warner wrote. "While I continue to reserve judgment on his nomination, I do think this job is too important to rush through confirmation without all the facts."

Kaine and Warner are not members of the Senate'sVA panel but would participate in a Senate floor vote on whether to approve of Jackson's nomination.

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(c)2018 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)

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