A volley of misconduct accusations has trashed White House doctor Ronny Jackson’s reputation — and demolished his chance to lead the Veterans Affairs Department. The White House vows to clear his name. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump says he has a new candidate in mind with “political capability.”

We hope he delivers this time. Jackson, who had been Trump’s personal doctor, was a cipher on many of the important qualifications to run the VA, except for one essential prerequisite — fawning loyalty to the president. Jackson had never run a huge, unwieldy, famously dysfunctional and change-averse organization.

Nor had Jackson weighed in publicly on the most important issue facing the agency: whether to accelerate the move to allow veterans more private choice in their health care.

The last VA leader, David Shulkin, didn’t fully embrace the mission of expanding choice. He got the hook because of that reluctance — and mounting ethical troubles.

The next VA secretary needs deep experience not just in lassoing unruly bureaucrats but in rethinking how the VA could better deliver health care to vets. That care needs to be first-rate, but much of it is routine and doesn’t need to be delivered at a VA hospital or clinic. Much of the care veterans seek at those facilities could easily be provided by local, private doctors and clinics. That’s a way to speed care to veterans but also to help focus the agency’s mission on the vets who need specialized care for combat-related injuries.

Many vets now have greater choice under the Veterans Choice program created by Congress in 2014. The program is so popular that it is slated to run out of money by early June unless Congress acts. Lawmakers, keep the Choice program running.


Another appealing idea: Update current eligibility standards so that vets can visit a private doctor even if they live close to a VA facility or don’t have to endure long wait times.

The Jackson debacle is a warning to Trump staffers responsible for vetting candidates for this job: Be better prepared to defend the next nominee. Remember that this is the era of #MeToo. Don’t bet on anyone’s deference — or silence — about past misconduct. There should be more due diligence on the front end.

Millions of veterans depend on the VA for their health care. The next VA secretary won’t have time to learn on the job. He or she will need to be battle-ready to make sure veterans get the quality of care they deserve, when and where they need it.

Editorial by the Chicago Tribune

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