President Donald Trump's decision to replace David Shulkin as Veterans Affairs secretary with White House Dr. Ronny Jackson is like "asking someone who's never climbed a mountain to begin with Mount Everest," Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Thursday.
"The VA is the Mount Everest of public managing," the Connecticut Democrat told MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"It deals with our nation's heroes. There is no excuse for failing to meet the highest standards."
Further, said Blumenthal, running the VA's network of hospitals is the "largest healthcare challenge in the United States."
Many of the hospitals are very well run, he added, naming the West Haven facility in Connecticut as a "center of excellence in many ways," but VA hospitals are also at the forefront of dealing with "some of the most challenging problems."
Blumenthal said that as a member of the Senate VA Committee, he plans to have some "tough questions" for Jackson, and he predicted the doctor, a U.S. Navy rear admiral, will be "scrutinized very closely."
The senator said he does not know Jackson, but he's taken a good look at his background.
"I took a good look at his background," said Blumenthal. "He's an emergency room doc. He's deployed into trauma centers, so he's seen the sharp end of the spear, but I think you're on the right know to say this is an enormous challenge taking this on.
"I'm tempted to say this is an administration full of generals, maybe we need a few admirals, but I think in reality, I think he's going to have a very, very steep learning curve. We need to look at his credentials and see if it makes sense."
Retired Adm. James Stavridis, now the dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, appeared with Blumenthal on the program, and said he believes there are two issues at play when it comes to the difficulties the federal government has had in providing services for the nation's veterans.
"One is kind of psychological and one is practical," said Stavridis. "The psychological one is this kind of sense, and it's utterly inaccurate, but that the nation ought to really focus on the active duty military because they're out there fighting the fight and so much attention and so much approbation goes for those folks, the active duty."
Instead, the matter of care should be thought as a continuum of service, said Stavridis.
The practical problem, he continued, is the "disconnect from active duty to when you become a veteran," because active duty military gets "very, very good health care."
When one becomes a veteran, though, "your records, in a practical sense, drop off the planet," said Stavridis.
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