The office of Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) just released a list of allegations made against Ronny L. Jackson, President Trump's nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, and it's ... quite the list.
Conversations with 23 colleagues and former colleagues of Rear Admiral Jackson, most of whom are still in uniform, have raised serious concerns about Jackson’s temperament and ethics, and cast doubt on his ability to lead the second largest agency in government and one tasked with the sacred mission of fulfilling our commitment to the men and women who have served our nation in uniform and their families.
Those concerns are best captured under the following three topics:
- Multiple individuals cited the nickname “Candyman” used by WH staff because he would provide whatever prescriptions they sought without paperwork.
- Physicians, physician assistants, and nurses have described a pattern of handing out Ambien (to sleep) and Provigil (to wake up) without triaging patient history (no intakes, no questionnaires) on Air Force One. These are controlled substances that require tracking.
- Jackson would have been the prescriber though he also directed nurses to dispense them.
- The White House Medical Unit (WHMU) had questionable record keeping for pharmaceuticals so it is tough to account for all controlled substances with perfect accuracy. Only after-the-fact would Jackson account for pills or provide paper records to account for shortages. For example, missing Percocet (used for pain) tabs once threw WHMU into a panic. It turned out Jackson had provided a large supply to a White House Military Office (WHMO) staffer. Jackson also had private stocks of controlled substances.
- A nurse noted that Jackson wrote himself scripts. When caught, he had someone else (his PA) do it.
- Jackson prescribed medications when other physicians would not.
- Physicians felt uncomfortable and refused to be a part of the loose dispensing of drugs to current and former WH staff (and at times, their family members).
- Jackson would have staff write scripts for each other to give to non-beneficiaries.
- To protect one beneficiary, a prescription for a sleep aid was written for another provider rather than the beneficiary.
- Lack of documentation was difficult for one practitioner because that practitioner would not know the full array of medications taken by a patient when they came to that practitioner for assistance.
- A physician stated that Jackson has been lucky because his prescribing practices are reckless.
- A provider noted WHMU purchases pharmaceuticals from an on-line retailer, separate from Walter Reed, which enables WHMU to prescribe controlled substances without accounting through Walter Reed, which should be the sole supplier.
- Individuals cite inquiries by the Navy Surgeon General and WHMO into these issues, as well as a DOD IG submission related to ineligible personnel receiving care at Walter Reed in the President’s Wing. Outlined in that document are concerns about WHMO’s ability to be objective on matters related to Admiral Jackson. Mentioned in that complaint was a previous investigation by WHMO about dispensing of controlled substances.
HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT
- Individuals noted a constant fear of reprisal. Specific examples that would identify the individuals concerned have been provided to Committee staff but are not provided here to protect their identities.
- Jackson was described as “the most unethical person I have ever worked with”, “flat-out unethical”, “explosive”, “100 percent bad temper”, “toxic”, “abusive”, “volatile”, “incapable of not losing his temper”, “the worst officer I have ever served with”, “despicable”, “dishonest”, as having “screaming tantrums” and “screaming fits”, as someone who would “lose his mind over small things”, “vindictive”, “belittling”, “the worse leader I’ve ever worked for.” Day-to-day environment was like “walking on eggshells.” As Jackson gained power he became “intolerable.” One physician said, “I have no faith in government that someone like Jackson could be end up at VA.” A nurse stated, “this [working at WHMU] should have been the highlight of my military career but it was my worst assignment.” Another stated that working at WHMU was the “worst experience of my life.”
- Jackson was viewed as someone who “would roll over anyone”, “worked his way up on the backs of others”, “was a suck up to those above him and abusive to those below him”, a “kiss up, kick down boss”, “put his needs above everyone else’s.”
- Individuals believe the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) and White House Counsel’s Office looked into these issues.
- Multiple incidents of drunkenness on duty were described to Committee staff. Several of these incidents involve overseas travel. These incidents are not described here to protect the identities of those involved.
- When “on duty” or “holding the medical bag”, Jackson was required to be on call at a moment’s notice in the event of a health issue with the President. On several occasions, Jackson would reach for “the bag” while intoxicated to show he was in charge. On at least one occasion, Dr. Jackson could not be reached when needed because he was passed out drunk in his hotel room.
- At a Secret Service going away party, Jackson got drunk and wrecked a government vehicle.