White House doctor Ronny Jackson withdraws from VA nomination

WASHINGTON, April 26 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump's physician Ronny Jackson withdrew on Thursday from the nomination to head the Department of Veterans Affairs after allegations about misconduct mounted and a Senate panel postponed his confirmation hearing.

"While I will forever be grateful for the trust and confidence President Trump has placed in me by giving me this opportunity, I am regretfully withdrawing my nomination to be Secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs," Jackson said in a statement.

The Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs was investigating allegations that Jackson, who has been physician to three presidents, had overseen a hostile work environment as White House physician, drank on the job and allowed the overprescribing of drugs.

Details about the allegations against Trump's nominee to lead the federal government's second-largest agency were compiled in a document by Democratic committee staff that surfaced on Wednesday.

Jackson prescribed himself medications, got drunk at a Secret Service party, wrecked a government vehicle and once could not be reached on a work trip to provide medical treatment because he was passed out drunk in a hotel room, a summary of the document said.

"The allegations against me are completely false and fabricated ... Unfortunately, because of how Washington works, these false allegations have become a distraction for this President and the important issue we must be addressing – how we give the best care to our nation’s heroes," Jackson said.

Jackson, 50, has worked as a presidential physician since the George W. Bush administration, and has been the lead doctor for Trump as well as former President Barack Obama. He is well-liked by both Republican and Democratic administration officials.

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US President Donald Trump shakes hands with White House Physician Rear Admiral Dr. Ronny Jackson, following his annual physical at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, January 12, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
White House, Presidential physician Ronny Jackson answers question about U.S. President Donald Trump's health after the president's annual physical during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, U.S., January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Dr. Ronny Jackson after his annual physical exam at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, U.S., January 12, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
US President Donald Trump (C) and his White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson (L) listen as US Secretary of Veterans Affairs David J. Shulkin speaks about new technology used by the Department of Veterans Affairs during an event in the Roosevelt Room of the White House August 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
White House, Presidential physician Ronny Jackson prepares to answers question about U.S. President Donald Trump's health after the president's annual physical during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, U.S., January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Dr. Ronny Jackson after his annual physical exam at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, U.S., January 12, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson speaks to reporters during the daily briefing in the Brady press briefing room at the White House in Washington, DC on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (C) walks with his physician Dr. Ronny Jackson (2nd R) to Marine One after visiting with troops at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center November 29, 2016 in Bethesda, Maryland. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 3: (AFP OUT) U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr.David Shulkin(right) explains equipment to White House Physician Dr. Ronny L. Jackson(left) U.S. President Donald Trump (2nd left) to be used in a new program using video and software technology to provide medical care to veterans at The White House August 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 24: Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, nominee for Veterans Affairs secretary, leaves Dirksen Building after a meeting on Capitol Hill with Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., on April 24, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
U.S. President Donald Trump's nominee to be U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, meets with Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) at his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
UNITED STATES - APRIL 24: Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, nominee for Veterans Affairs secretary, leaves Dirksen Building after a meeting on Capitol Hill with Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., on April 24, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 17: Physician to the President U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson meets with Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) in his office in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill April 17, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump nominated Jackson, his personal doctor at the White House, to be the new Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs after Trump fired David Shulkin on March 28. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 25: Veterans Affairs Secretary Nominee Dr. Ronny Jackson departs the U.S. Capitol April 25, 2018 in Washington, DC. Jackson faces a tough confirmation fight after being plagued by allegations of inappropriate behavior. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 16: Physician to the President U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson waves to journalists as he heads into a meeting with Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-GA) in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill April 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump nominated Jackson, his personal doctor at the White House, to be the new Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs after Trump fired David Shulkin on March 28. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary, speaks to members of the media while Ronny Jackson, physician for U.S. President Donald Trump, left, smiles during a White House press briefing in Washington D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. Trump�is 'very healthy' and should remain so through his presidency, according to Jackson, who examined the president last week amid criticism that the 71-year-old commander-in-chief may be unfit for office. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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The U.S. Navy rear admiral and Iraq war veteran took on a higher profile when he gave a long and glowing news conference about Trump's health in January after his first presidential medical exam.

Jackson's qualifications to lead the sprawling Veterans Affairs department were questioned from the time Trump nominated him in late March. The agency has 350,000 employees and runs 1,700 facilities that serve more than 9 million veterans a year.

The department has long been under fire for the quality of healthcare it provides veterans, a group that carries considerable political clout in America. During his election campaign, Trump vowed to clean it up.

The Senate committee considering his nomination asked the White House this week for more information after initial allegations about Jackson's conduct came to light.

Trump on Tuesday said during a news conference that he did not know the details of the allegations, but said it was up to Jackson whether to continue with a political process he called "too ugly and too disgusting."

Trump acknowledged that Jackson had an "experience problem" for leading the sprawling department which has long faced criticism for the quality of its care and the bureaucracy that veterans encounter.

Trump fired former VA Secretary David Shulkin after concerns about unauthorized travel expenses. (Reporting by Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Grant McCool)

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