Robert Wilkie WaPo Lisa Rein Curt Cashour

Lisa Rein v Curt Cashour: VA Swipes At WaPo, Blows Off Secretary’s Swearing In

In a possible nose-thumbing, VA Public Affairs was surprisingly silent on new secretary Robert Wilkie’s swearing-in; spending all of two seconds retweeting with no substantive messaging about the important event – – meanwhile taking a swipe at WaPo reporter Lisa Rein.

No tweets or retweets from VA Public Affairs @DeptVetAffairs. A couple simple retweets from the VA press secretary @CurtCashour, VA press secretary. Literally nothing from John Ullyot, head of Public Affairs @DCJohnnyU. But there was one hefty response today, relatively speaking, credited to VA press secretary Curt Cashour that I will dip into in a bit.

That response was a swipe at the reporting of Washington Post reporter Lisa Rein who reported Sunday that the new secretary planned to remove key Trump loyalists from their present posts. And that list included Ullyot and Cashour among others.

Curt Cashour Swipe At WaPo

Before, during and after Wilkie’sswearing-in, with the exceptions of two retweets from Cashour, Public Affairs said nothing. Apparently, the press secretary blew his energy for the day firing off that swipe at Rein:

Good afternoon. Some of you have been tweeting/writing about this Washington Post story, so we wanted you to have the below statement, attributable to VA press secretary Curt Cashour, that we have provided to other outlets that have asked for comment. 

VA has no personnel announcements at this time.

However, the Washington Post story contained a number of errors. Specifically:

– John Ullyot will remain VA’s assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs, and there will be no changes whatsoever to his duties.

– Curt Cashour remains VA’s press secretary and has no plans to leave the department.

– Camilo Sandoval is not leaving the administration and will remain at VA.

Is this a sign of things to come – – more pushback against the VA secretary selected by the President – – or is it a quick middle finger on the way out the door?

Lisa Rein Excerpts From WaPo

To be fair, let’s take a quick look at what Rein actually wrote to read between the lines with that not-so-silver tongued Cashour:

John Ullyot, VA’s assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs, will likely be reassigned to a role running internal communications, these people said. Ullyot, a former Senate aide, openly clashed with Shulkin and left VA on paid leave for several weeks at the end of Shulkin’s tenure, returning after the secretary’s firing. 

VA press secretary Curt Cashour, a former Capitol Hill aide who has clashed with reporters, is said to be searching for another job in the Trump administration, according to people familiar with the matter.

Camilo Sandoval, acting chief information officer and the former director of data operations for Trump’s campaign — who received poor reviews from lawmakers on his progress overseeing a $16 billion project to modernize VA’s electronic health records system — is expected to leave the administration in coming months, according to a person familiar with his plans.

Before I talk about what Cashour wrote, let’s remember how Trump canned former secretary David Shulkin. He let Shulkin flail around in the media for a month or so before giving him the ax. During that period, Shulkin swore and down that he was in charge and now going anywhere.

Then Trump fired him via Twitter. Maybe Cashour should pay attention to the recent events he helped perpetuate?

Silver Tongued, Or Sliver Tongued (Ouch)?

As for his rebuttal, Cashour uses very specific language when explaining what Ullyot will be doing after Wilkie takes over, “no changes whatsoever to his duties.” Fine. That can simply mean his job description is the same but he still will be managing internal communications only.

For his own position, while Cashour may have no plans on leaving the agency, sources may be aware he is getting the soft boot out into something a more appropriate for his disposition.

As for Sandoval, note the bait and switch in the language here. Cashour sets you up earlier with slant rebuttals but lands this one well off the bullseye. It does seem likely he is going somewhere else. We know he is basically gone with today’s selection of James Gfrerer.

Cashour clearly needs to go to finishing school. The job of the press, at least within VA, should be to smooth over issues, spin the truth, and keep reporters happy. While it’s obvious Cashour has no problem spinning the truth, he certainly needs some work on his bedside manner with reporters.

A Little Trip Down Memory Lane

Here is a rundown on what is going on and why you should be concerned for Wilkie.

Late Friday, I received reports from independent sources of the most reliable kind that Cashour was on his way out, either that day or very soon. Obviously, Cashour still has control of the agency’s mass email system, and he is likely employed at this moment.

This makes sense given his involvement in the coup of former secretary David Shulkin where he refused to allow Shulkin the opportunity to speak with the press about actions taken against him by his own staff. Ullyot, the assistant secretary of Public Affairs was in on it as were other Trump loyalists including Peter O’Rourke.

Sunday, the Washington Post’s Lisa Rein not only confirmed what I reported but went on to confirm the removal of a few more Trump loyalists. Now, the removals are not necessarily straight out firings – – VA hates those since it can result in a lawsuit, so they prefer to pressure those being removed into giving up their rights in favor of poorly drafted settlement offers.

Instead of keeping certain Trump loyalists where they are as part of a condition of accepting the job, Wilkie supposedly negotiated to remove certainly loyalists from positions that could seriously damage the agency or further ruin its reputation.

For the past four years, the agency’s reputation has been in tatters for being dishonest with the American public. In the past 18 months, that reputation was made worse by the clown show Ullyot and Cashour treated the news media too. Between coup attempts, shoddy mismanagement of the agency’s messaging, and the newest perjury allegations against former acting secretary Peter O’Rourke, the agency is in more trouble than ever.

Rather than focus on his job, you know, helping the agency look better by highlighting how great of a pick Wilkie will be for military veterans and American, Cashour had a very different plan in mind today.

SPAM reporters using government email.

He apparently picked up a book on how to look amateurish and fired off that response to reporters like me who were reporting on the pending changes inside the agency.

I have a hunch that if he is not in a different role by the end of the week, he certainly will be by the end of the year.

That Aside

All that rhetoric aside, I have a job offer the VA secretary cannot refuse.

I see your team failed to cover your big day. Somehow, despite VA’s public affairs/propaganda budget of tens of millions of dollars, your Batman – John Ullyot and Robin – Curt Cashour could not lift a finger to type anything of original content for your swearing-in ceremony.

I call BS on that one, and if I were you, I would put those babies in the corner (borrowing a line from the epic 80’s movie Dirty Dancing, for those of you too young or too old to know).

Really, I am sure they were too busy pissing off reporters or making the agency look impotent in some other way while misusing bombastic modifiers to seem bold and brave, like a late-night ad for some new hemorrhoid cream you keep seeing, over an over.

Here is my deal to you Secretary Wilkie. I will come run your press team for a fair price. And, I promise to write a press release when the next appointee is sworn in. Deal?

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  1. Can someone please help me understand why my comments are not posting?? Very frustrating to spend time writing, editing them, only for them to not be posted. I do not understand why… 🙁

  2. 07/31/2018

    Dear Benjamin Krause,

    Benjamin you had stated that the VA has been “dishonest with the American public,” and they [the] “VA treated the news media” unfairly, and now the VA has “perjury allegations” against them.

    That is just too bad!
    In my opinion you are not hitting the VA hard enough for their bad deeds.
    Not even close.


    Don Karg

  3. @ Elf.
    Thanks for posting!
    Here’s the rest of the article.

    “…In his Senate confirmation hearing, Wilkie, who grew up at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, said his concern for the military and veterans comes from his late father, retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Leon Wilkie Sr., who died last year.
    His father’s awards included three Purple Hearts, four awards of the Bronze Star (one with Combat “V” device), four awards of the Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the senior Parachutist Badge and the Ranger tab.

    “At my Pentagon swearing in, I was proud when the officiating officer noted that I had been born in khaki diapers,” Wilkie said.
    “I have been privileged to see this military life from many angles, as a dependent, as the son of a gravely wounded combat soldier; as an officer in two services, the Navy and the Air Force; and as a senior leader in the Pentagon,” he said.

    The Washington Post reported Sunday that Wilkie would immediately set about reassigning several of the top-level Trump administration political appointees at the VA who have raised concerns among the VSOs and House and Senate Democrats.
    Peter O’Rourke, the current acting secretary and former chief of staff at the VA, has clashed with the VA’s Office of Inspector General over access to whistleblower complaint data. O’Rourke formerly worked on Trump’s campaign staff.

    Camilo Sandoval, another former Trump campaign staffer and current acting chief information officer at the VA, is expected to leave the VA in the coming months, The Washington Post reported.
    VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour issued a statement Monday saying that the VA “has no personnel announcements at this time.” Cashour also said that Sandoval was remaining at the VA and that he himself “has no plans to leave the department.”

    Wilkie will be taking over the nation’s largest health care system, with 171 hospitals and more than 1,000 clinics and other facilities.
    At his Senate confirmation hearing, he heard from both sides of the aisle on morale at the VA and the political infighting that has targeted long-serving civil service staff.

    “Of all the challenges we have at VA, morale may be the biggest problem,” Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, told Wilkie. “You are getting an agency that has problems, that’s in need of help.”
    Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, the ranking member of the committee, warned Wilkie that he would eventually come into conflict with Trump administration political appointees within the VA and at the White House who had pressed for a rapid expansion of private health care options.

    “Sooner or later, you’re going to come to a crossroads with these folks,” Tester said of the political appointees. “My only advice to you is to take the cues from the veterans and do what you think is right, even if political forces threaten your job because I want you to succeed. I really want you to succeed.”
    Wilkie said his main concern in taking the VA secretary’s job is getting veterans access to the treatment they have earned.

    “Many of the issues I encountered as acting secretary were not with the quality of care but were getting veterans through the door to get that care,” he said at his confirmation hearing.
    Isakson asked Wilkie what “customer service” means at the VA. Wilkie responded, “Customer service means before the veteran walks through the door of the VA he’s already been greeted by schedulers, by medical professionals.
    “I have no doubt that VA provides some of the finest care in America, but I also understand that getting to that care is something that the leadership of the Veterans Affairs Department has to focus on like a laser beam,” he added.

    In addition to reassigning personnel, Wilkie will have several top jobs to fill. The VA currently lacks a permanent deputy secretary, the No. 2 post, and the jobs of undersecretary for health and deputy undersecretary for health are still unfilled.
    — Richard Sisk can be reached at “[email protected]”. ”
    © Copyright 2018 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  4. From: “”
    Here’s another viewpoint——

    “Wilkie Sworn In to Head a VA Suffering from Infighting and Low Morale!”
    30 Jul 2018
    By Richard Sisk

    Robert Wilkie took the oath of office Monday to become the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs and take over a department riddled by poor morale among employees and political infighting at the top.

    At a White House ceremony, President Donald Trump looked on as Vice President Mike Pence swore in Wilkie, 55, of North Carolina, who served as an intelligence officer in the Navy and holds the rank of colonel in the Air Force reserves.

    Wilkie was taking on “a very, very tough and important position,” Trump said. “Since day one, my administration has been focused on serving the men and women who make freedom possible, our great veterans. These heroes deserve on the best and they will have it under Robert Wilkie.”

    Wilkie was coming to the VA from a post at the Pentagon, and Trump joked that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was the only one upset by the move.

    “General Mattis is here someplace? He’s the only one unhappy about this because I took him away from General Mattis, right? And General Mattis, I’m sorry to have done that, we have no choice,” Trump said. “The vets are calling, right?”

    Trump said Wilkie had the task of implementing key legislation passed in his administration — the VA Mission Act expanding private health care options and the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act aimed at speeding up the process of firing poor performers.

    Pence also swore in Wilkie’s predecessor, Dr. David Shulkin, who was fired by Trump in March. Wilkie became the 10th VA Secretary since the department was made a Cabinet post in 1989.

    As was the case with Shulkin, the only holdover from the Obama administration in Trump’s Cabinet, Wilkie was not the president’s first pick.

    Trump nominated Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, his personal physician and head of the White House medical unit to head the VA, but Jackson withdrew his name amid questions about his lack of experience in top management post and never-proven allegations of misconduct involving his job performance at the White House.

    Wilkie, who had been serving as undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, was brought over to the VA in early April to serve on an interim basis as VA acting secretary.

    Trump appeared to surprise him at an unrelated White House ceremony in May when he announced that Wilkie was his nominee for the permanent post.

    As acting secretary, Wilkie indicated he was well aware of the poor morale at the VA and backbiting at the top over the expansion of private health care option for veterans.

    “If we don’t listen to each other, we won’t be able to listen to our veterans and their families,” said Wilkie, a Republican who previously served in a number of Capitol Hill and White House staff positions.

    “We must have a bottom-up organization,” he said when he was named to become acting secretary. “The energy must flow from you who are closest to those we are sworn to serve. It is from you that the ideas we carry to the Congress, the VSOs [veterans service organizations], and to America’s veterans will come.”

    He stressed that he would listen to the rank-and-file. “Anyone who sits in this chair and tells you he has the answers is in the wrong business,” he said.

    In his Senate confirmation hearing, Wilkie, who grew up at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, said his concern for the military and veterans comes from his late father, retired Army Lt. Col.

    (Sorry I didn’t get the whole article on!)

  5. Questions/concerns in response to COVER: Did the funding for medical reimbursements (CAVC, Staab v. McDonald (04/2016; Staab v. Shulkin, withdrew VA appeal 06/2017; established COVER 07/2017) $2,500,000, get diverted to COVER? The regulation (Shulkin, 02/2017) created to disburse the funds for out-of-pocket expenses, denied 2009-2016, actually overrides the CAVC decision. The purpose of the decision was to correct a longstanding error of interpretation pertaining to veterans who had other insurance and SSDB (Medicaid, Medicare), and reduce the burden of collections on veterans for outside emergency/NonVA medical care.

    Secretary McDonald’s parting gift secured another $2,000, 000+ for Camp Lejuene Water Toxins (environmental poisoning) veterans. Any word on disbursement?

    We are the undercover agents of change, our individual experiences are the testimonies needed to make change happen. As long as there is division, anger and bitterness, separation by race, sex, age, war group, and lack of teamwork, we will continue to experience poor quality care, benefit limitations/denials.

  6. There is no way I would ever have watched Dirty Dancing let alone admit to it had I done so.

  7. Another day, same old shit!

    The corruption, waste, fraud and abuse (allegations) are really getting old at VA!
    It’s time to shut down the VA, and its corrupt union, once and for all!

  8. Curt Cashour is only committed 100% to preserving the bolted-down deck chairs on the V.A.Titanic and *anything* that is considered to be a threat to that becomes the shared by VSO mantra of “Save Our VA”…from what?
    Curt CashOUR is only protecting what he and other entitled assholes @ VA think: OUR CASH

    I’m actually titillated these assholes are shaking nervous in their ratty-clawed shoes.

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