President Donald Trump has tapped longtime Veterans Affairs official Peter O’Rourke as the agency’s acting secretary, the White House announced Wednesday, a move that comes ahead of the confirmation hearing of VA secretary-designate Robert Wilkie.
O’Rourke, who previously served as chief of staff for the agency and as its executive director for the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, took on the role effective Tuesday, the White House office of the press secretary announced in a statement.
Trump surprised Wilkie, then serving as acting VA secretary, during a May 18 summit on prison reform at the White House by announcing he would formally nominate him for the role. Trump praised Wilkie for an "incredible job" steering the VA in recent months, a stretch plagued by controversy and reshuffling of its leadership.
Prior to Wilkie’s nomination, longtime White House physician Ronny Jackson withdrew from consideration to lead the VA last month amid scandal over his workplace behavior.
In March, Trump announced on Twitter he was ousting then-secretary David Shulkin amid growing tensions over a taxpayer-financed trip to Europe last year and after he openly sparred with conservatives in his agency.
Jacquelyn Hayes-Byrd, formerly the deputy chief of staff at the agency, will serve as VA acting chief of staff while O’Rourke serves as acting secretary and as Wilkie undergoes the confirmation process in the Senate.