The Shadow Rulers of the VA

Moskowitz is a Palm Beach doctor who helps wealthy people obtain high-service “concierge” medical care.

…He is one-third of an informal council that is exerting sweeping influence on the VA from Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, Florida. The troika is led by Ike Perlmutter, the reclusive chairman of Marvel Entertainment, who is a longtime acquaintance of President Trump’s. The third member is a lawyer named Marc Sherman. None of them has ever served in the U.S. military or government.

….hundreds of documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and interviews with former administration officials tell …of a previously unknown triumvirate that hovered over public servants without any transparency, accountability or oversight. The Mar-a-Lago Crowd spoke with VA officials daily, the documents show, reviewing all manner of policy and personnel decisions. They prodded the VA to start new programs, and officials travelled to Mar-a-Lago at taxpayer expense to hear their views.

…“Everything needs to be run by them,” the first former official said, recalling the process. “They view themselves as making the decisions.”

The Mar-a-Lago Crowd bombarded VA officials with demands, many of them inapt or unhelpful. 

…Besides advocating for friends’ interests, some of the Mar-a-Lago Crowd’s interventions served their own purposes.

…They proposed inviting private health care executives to tell the VA which services they should outsource to private providers like themselves. It was precisely the kind of fox-in-the-henhouse scenario that the VA’s defenders had warned against for years.

…But it wasn’t just Shulkin — all the officials that the Leinenkugel memo singled out for removal are now gone, replaced with allies of Perlmutter, Sherman and Moskowitz. The memo suggested that Sandoval take charge of the Office of Information and Technology, overseeing the implementation of the Cerner contract; he got the job in April. The memo proposed removing Deputy Secretary Tom Bowman; he left in June, and the post hasn’t been filled. The memo floated Richard Stone for under secretary for health; he got the job on an acting basis in July. Leinenkugel himself took charge of a commission on mental health (the same topic Moskowitz had emailed O’Rourke about). O’Rourke, having hit it off with the Mar-a-Lago Crowd, became acting secretary in May.

The Shadow Rulers of the VA — ProPublica

Sigh….

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