Report alleges Veterans Affairs nominee was nicknamed ‘Candyman’ for providing drugs without paperwork
Dr. Ronny Jackson, White House physician since 2006, faces a slew of accusations compiled by Democrats
President Trump’s pick for Veterans Affairs secretary showed “a pattern” of questionable prescription drug practices and drunken behavior, including crashing a government vehicle while intoxicated and doling out a large supply of a prescription opioid to a White House military staff member, according to a summary of allegations compiled by Democrats.
The two-page summary details complaints it received from 23 former and current colleagues of Dr. Ronny Jackson, who has served as a White House physician since 2006.
The memo released by Democrats on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee reported multiple incidents of Jackson’s intoxication while on duty, often on overseas trips. On at least one occasion he was nowhere to be found when his medical help was needed because “he was passed out drunk in his hotel room.”
At a Secret Service going-away party, the summary says, Jackson got drunk and wrecked a government vehicle.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday at the White House, Jackson denied allegations of bad behavior. “I never wrecked a car,” he said. “I have no idea where that is coming from.”
He walked out a West Wing door and did not respond as reporters asked whether he was going to withdraw his nomination.
According to the summary, Jackson was nicknamed “Candyman” by White House staff members because he would provide prescriptions without paperwork and had his own private stock of controlled substances.
The summary was released by Democrats as the White House rallied behind Jackson.
Drugs he prescribed included Ambien, used for sleep, and Provigil, used to help wake up. Only after the fact would Jackson account for pills or provide paper records to account for shortages, the summary said. In one case, it said, White House medical staff members fell “into a panic” because he had provided a large supply of Percocet to a staffer.
The allegations were publicly released as the White house launched an all-out defense of Jackson’s nomination to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs amid concerns by Congress that Trump had not properly vetted him or other nominees.
Jackson is fighting to salvage his imperiled nomination as more details emerge about accusations from his time as a top White House doctor. Trump has suggested publicly that Jackson may want to withdraw but privately is urging him to work for Senate confirmation. So far, Jackson is showing few signs of backing down.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Jackson had passed “at least four independent background checks” that found “no areas of concern.”
“He has received more vetting than most nominees,” Sanders said Wednesday.
White House legislative director Marc Short said Jackson “feels very strongly these are baseless accusations.”
Veterans groups are dismayed over the continuing uncertainty at the VA, already beset by infighting over improvements to healthcare.
“The American Legion is very concerned about the current lack of permanent leadership,” said Denise Rohan, national commander of the American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans organization.
The group opposed Trump’s firing of VA Secretary David Shulkin, an Obama administration holdover, and has not taken a position on Jackson. But Rohan urged action to approve a “strong, competent and experienced secretary.”
A watchdog report requested in 2012 and reviewed by the Associated Press found that Jackson and a rival physician exhibited “unprofessional behaviors” as they engaged in a power struggle over the White House medical unit.
The report by the Navy’s medical inspector general found a lack of trust in the leadership and low morale among staff members, who described the working environment as “being caught between parents going through a bitter divorce.”
3:30 p.m.: The story was updated with more details from a summary of allegations about Dr. Ronny Jackson and comments from the White House.
The story was originally published at 2:10 p.m.
Must-read stories from the L.A. Times
Get all the day's most vital news with our Today's Headlines newsletter, sent every weekday morning.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.