VA Secretary Was 'Designated Survivor' for Trump Speech

Dr. David Shulkin. Official Department of Veterans Affairs photo
Dr. David Shulkin. Official Department of Veterans Affairs photo

Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. David Shulkin was the "designated survivor" chosen by the White House during President Donald Trump's address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night.

Two weeks after he was sworn in as VA secretary, Shulkin was taken to an undisclosed and secure location for the duration of Trump's time at the Capitol, where the entire line of succession to the presidency had assembled. If disaster had struck, Shulkin would have served as acting president until a new election could be called.

Shortly after Trump began speaking at about 9:10 p.m., a senior administration official made the customary announcement to the White House pool that Shulkin was the designated survivor. He remained the designated survivor until Trump returned to the White House shortly after 11 p.m.

Typically, the designated survivor is chosen by the White House chief of staff.

According to historians, the practice of naming a designated survivor for events when the line of succession is gathered at one site dates back to the Cold War era.

Had Shulkin been at the Capitol for the speech, he would have heard in person Trump announce that he will propose an increase in the VA's budget. However, Shulkin had told a small group of reporters Tuesday morning that his consultations with the White House led him to believe that the VA will get more funding.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at

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