President Donald Trump has named an official who had clashed with former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and reportedly pushed for his ouster to lead a new commission focused on mental health at the department.
The VA announced on Tuesday that Jake Leinenkugel would lead the Creating Options for Veterans' Expedited Recovery Commission, which it said would examine the VA's "evidence-based therapy model for treating mental health conditions," as well as "integrated mental health approaches." The commission held its first meeting on Tuesday.
"Jake has been an ambassador for change at VA, working to implement President Trump's policies throughout the department over the past year and a half," acting VA Secretary Peter O'Rourke said in a statement. "As leader of this important new commission, Jake will continue to advocate for better care and services for his fellow Veterans."
The announcement came a day after the Senate voted to confirm Robert Wilkie, a Defense Department under secretary, as the VA secretary, giving the sprawling agency its first permanent leader in months.
Leinenkugel is a former White House senior adviser on veterans affairs, who before Shulkin's firing had expressed his frustrations with the then-secretary's leadership.
The New York Times and The Washington Post previously reported that in December, Leinenkugel wrote an email to another senior VA official, Camilo Sandoval, recommending that Shulkin be put "on notice to exit after major legislation and key POTUS VA initiatives in place."
Leinenkugel is a descendant of the founder of Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co., where he served as president for decades before retiring in 2014. A former captain in the Marine Corps, he joined the Trump administration in early 2017.