Top VA Health Nominee Withdraws Over Ties to Waiting-List Scandal

A veteran holds a sticker and a flag at a VA event in South Carolina in February. A veteran holds a sticker and a flag at a VA event in South Carolina in February. United Stated Department of Veterans Affairs

President Obama's nominee to be the top health official at the Veterans Affairs Department withdrew Thursday, his confirmation chances severely compromised by potential ties to the department's broader "waiting list" scandal

Reports have linked Jeffrey Murawsky—who was Obama's choice to serve as the department's next undersecretary for health—to an Illinois facility where staff allegedly placed veterans on such secret waiting lists for medical appointments. He was also a physician at the facility, and he technically remains on staff.

Murawsky asked the White House and Sloan Gibson, the VA's acting secretary, to pull his nomination to be the department's next undersecretary for health.

It's the second loss for the department in under a week, with Eric Shinseki resigning as secretary on Friday. A report from the VA's inspector general released last month found that "inappropriate scheduling practices are a systemic problem nationwide."

President Obama nominated Murawsky on May 1 to succeed Robert Petzel, who was expected to retire later this year. But Petzel resigned abruptly last month as the department's scandal continued to grow.

"The president and Acting Secretary [Sloan Gibson] plan to move as quickly as possible to fill the position with the best possible candidate who can ensure that our veterans get the care they have earned and deserve," a senior administration official said, confirming Murawsky's decision to withdraw—originally reported by the Associated Press.

Gibson will ask a commission to recommend a new nominee for the Veterans Health Administration.

Murawsky's decision comes as independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont unveiled a bipartisan bill aimed at fixing many of the VA's problems. The legislation would make it easier for Gibson to fire senior officials, while also including—unlike a similar bill passed by the House last week—one week for employees to appeal the decision.

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