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President Trump to sign executive order creating VA accountability office

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President Trump holds up the Veterans Choice Program And Improvement Act with VA Secretary David Shulkin clapping behind him, center, at the White House on April 19, 2017. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – President Trump, seeking to rack up accomplishments as he approaches the 100-day mark in office, will sign an executive order Thursday to create an office at the Department of Veterans Affairs charged with holding more VA employees accountable for wrongdoing.

The office will investigate allegations of misconduct – including retaliation against whistle-blowing employees who reported abuses — and seek to identify systemic barriers that have previously hindered the agencies’ top leaders from more adequately addressing such problems in the past, including with   disciplinary action.

VA Secretary David Shulkin told reporters the new office will report directly to him.

“Accountability is an important issue to us at VA and something that we’re focusing on to make sure that we have employees who work and are committed to the mission of serving our veterans, and when we find employees that have deviated from these values, we want to make sure that we can move them outside of VA and not have them working at VA,” he said, adding that Trump’s creation of the office by executive order demonstrates how committed the president is to the issue as well.

The VA already has an Office of Accountability Review that was created in 2014 to “ensure leadership accountability for improprieties related to patient scheduling and access to care, whistleblower retaliation, and related matters that impact public trust in VA.”

But Shulkin said that office reports to the agency’s general counsel and is focused on senior VA leaders. The new office will look at all VA employees.

Trump also promised during the campaign to create a White House hotline for VA complaints and a task force to investigate allegations of fraud and abuse at the VA, initiatives Shulkin has started to implement.

“These are all three efforts that are important for us to identify issues that are preventing us from doing the very best job that we can,” he said.

The VA has continued to face problems in veterans health care during the Trump administration, despite Trump’s pledges during the campaign he would fix the agency swiftly.

In March, the agency’s chief watchdog found  inaccurate wait times at a dozen VA facilities in North Carolina and Virginia precluded veterans from getting care outside the VA.

Earlier this month, VA Inspector General Michael Missal issued a rare public alert about equipment shortages at the VA Medical Center in Washington, D.C.,  that put patient safety in jeopardy.

He found the hospital had run out of vascular patches to seal blood vessels and tubes for kidney dialysis, among other critical items, and 18 of 25 sterile storage areas were dirty. In addition, Missal said senior VA leaders had known about the problems for months and hadn’t addressed them.

Within hours of Missal’s report, Shulkin reassigned the medical center director and dispatched a top aide to take over. He

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How Trump can still make America great: Paul Brandus

Paul Brandus Published 3:16 a.m. ET April 26, 2017 | Updated 23 minutes ago

CLOSE How Trump can still make America great: Paul Brandus
How Trump can still make America great: Paul Brandus

USA TODAY's Susan Page asks a panel of White House veterans and presidential scholars to offer President Trump advice after his first 100 days in the White House. USA TODAY

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Protest on March 8, 2017, in New York. (Photo: Timothy A. Clary, AFP/Getty Images)

Are we great again yet?

President Trump, closing in on his first 100 days, says things are going just fine. "I think we've had one of the most successful 13 weeks in the history of the presidency,” he said not long ago. It was only 11 at that point , but whatever.

The truth is that Trump has had one successful week. His April 6 attack on Syria sent a message not just to President Bashar Assad but to other “bad hombres” like North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the mullahs in Tehran, that he’s willing to use force when in his view it advances our national security. And the next day, thanks to a parliamentary sleight of hand by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, 49-year-old Neil Gorsuch was confirmed for the Supreme Court , guaranteeing that Trump’s influence will be with us for decades to come.

As for the other weeks, here’s what comes to mind: Trump weakened regulations that let companies dump toxins into the water supply . His budget and tax proposals offer not a helping hand but a kick in the teeth to those less fortunate than him. He was disappointed that his health care plan, which would have denied coverage to 24 million Americans over the next decade, sank without a vote. And, despite claiming after Assad’s chemical attack that “ no child of God should ever suffer such horror,” he’s fighting to keep those very same children from escaping Assad’s hell and coming here.

Ask yourself, honestly: Do those things make us great?

I don’t think so. I think they reflect what much of our nation has become: fearful, intolerant and increasingly devoid of confidence or compassion. Two wars, two recessions, two stock market crashes and a psyche-shattering terror attack, all in just the span of a decade and a half, will do that to you. Stir in an immature, narrow-minded, petty and tone-deaf political class and you’ve got quite a toxic stew.

Let’s face it: We’re one-sixth into the 21st century and it’s not going particularly well. Our setbacks have left us scarred and scared. Trust in our institutions is down. We spend more time arguing with one another than working together for the common good.

Trump’s rise has roots in much of this, and since he’s now head of state, much of the responsibility for turning things around starts with him. How to become great again? I say he can start with the basics:

First: Presidents set the tone and provide an example for others. The best of them reached out in earnest, and with humility, to those who didn't vote for

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Caitlyn Jenner on O.J. Simpson: 'I knew he did it'

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Caitlyn Jenner 'knew' O.J. Simpson did it, she said in a new interview on Wednesday.

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Trooper killed at gas station; suspect barricaded in home

USA Today Network Brittany Horn, Xerxes Wilson and Esteban Parra, The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal Published 6:53 p.m. ET April 26, 2017 | Updated 0 minutes ago

CLOSE Trooper killed at gas station; suspect barricaded in home
Trooper killed at gas station; suspect barricaded in home

Police are on the scene of an apparent police officer shooting at Wawa on Pulaski Highway in Bear.

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Emergency personnel standby on Brick Mill Lane as a man suspected of shooting a state police officer is involved in a police standoff at his home in Brick Mill Farm Wednesday afternoon. (Photo: William Bretzger, The News Journal)

WILMINGTON, Del. — A State Police trooper was gunned down in the parking lot of a Bear Wawa shortly after noon on Wednesday and a suspect in the officer's killing remained barricaded in a home north of Middletown, said Nathaniel McQueen Jr., superintendent of State Police.

The trooper's name was not released.

"This is a sad day for our state and Delaware State Police family," McQueen said. "We ask that you keep the trooper's family and the members of the Delaware State Police family in your prayers."

Dozens of police converged on a home on the 500 block of St. Michaels Drive in the Brick Mill Farm development, north of Middletown, where a suspect was barricaded alone, said Master Cpl. Gary Fournier, a state police spokesman.

"The suspect has been firing shots at the police officers from the residence he lives in and is currently holed up in the house," Fournier said.

Related:

The suspect's name was not released.

McQueen said the deceased trooper was responding to a "suspicious" vehicle at the Wawa on the 1600 block of Pulaski Highway, with two people inside.

"Shortly thereafter, trouble ensued," McQueen said.

One of the vehicle's occupants exited the car and shot multiple times, striking the trooper, McQueen said.  The trooper died at Christiana Hospital.

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Kevin Lerner, was eating when he witnessed the trooper approach a vehicle in the parking lot. He said the shooter pushed the trooper before running backward a short distance and opening fire.

"When he turned around he spun around and had his gun already ready and he started shooting," Lerner said. "That officer didn't look like he was doing anything wrong but just asking him for his (identification) or whatever."

Police arrested one of the vehicle's occupants at the Wawa. Investigators on the scene were able to track the other man to the home north of Middletown.

Police maintained a perimeter around the home as they sought to negotiate a "peaceful end" to the conflict, Fournier said.

On the corner of Dove Run Boulevard and Brick Mill Road, four ambulances appeared to be on standby with emergency personnel out of their vehicles and staring toward a helicopter hovering in the distance. County police in body armor and four New Castle County cruisers were prepared to escort them.

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Trooper killed at gas station; suspect barricaded in home

Raw Video: Police escort body of officer from Christiana Hospital

The flurry of activity spread fear among local residents, and state police advised those who live nearby to stay inside.

The police action blocked Middletown resident Robert Dalton from his

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Freedom Caucus backs Obamacare repeal bill with new changes

CLOSE Freedom Caucus backs Obamacare repeal bill with new changes
Freedom Caucus backs Obamacare repeal bill with new changes

Republicans may have a shot at getting rid of Obamacare. Veuer's Nick Cardona (@nickcardona93) has that story. Buzz60

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Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, answers questions while leaving a meeting at the U.S. Capitol on April 26, 2017. (Photo: Win McNamee, Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The House Freedom Caucus announced Wednesday that with new changes to the Republican Obamacare repeal bill, the conservative lawmakers are now willing to support the bill and are urging the rest of their party to get behind it as well. The group was critical to sinking the Obamacare repeal bill last month .

“Due to improvements to the (American Health Care Act) and the addition of Rep. Tom MacArthur’s proposed amendment, the House Freedom Caucus has taken an official position in support of the current proposal,” the group said in a statement Wednesday.

MacArthur, the New Jersey Republican who co-chairs the moderate Tuesday Group, negotiated new language with Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., to address Freedom Caucus concerns that the original bill did not go far enough in repealing the Affordable Care Act's mandates on the coverage insurers are required to provide.

The amendment leaves many of the mandates from Obamacare in place, in an attempt to keep or get moderate support, but it also gives states the option to apply for waivers that would get rid of the minimum insurance requirements, like coverage of maternity care and mental health treatment.

States will be granted waivers if they can prove one or more of the following: Premiums will go down, more people will get insurance, the insurance markets or premiums will be stabilized, or there will be more health options in the state.

The amendment does say that even with waivers, insurance companies cannot discriminate in their rates based on gender. They also must provide coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, though it is not clear whether costs will go up for people with pre-existing conditions.

“The MacArthur amendment will grant states the ability to repeal cost driving aspects of Obamacare left in place under the original AHCA,” the Freedom Caucus said. “While the revised version still does not fully repeal Obamacare, we are prepared to support it to keep our promise to the American people to lower healthcare costs. We look forward to working with our Senate colleagues to improve the bill."

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Conservative interest groups — which had previously come out against the bill and said Republicans would be held accountable for their votes — indicated support for the amendment, too.

"This latest agreement would give states the chance to opt out of some of Obamacare’s costliest regulations, opening the way to greater choice and lower insurance premiums," Club for Growth president David McIntosh said in a statement.

Heritage Action stopped short of a full endorsement, but said it would not attack members who vote for the legislation.

“To be clear, this is not full repeal and it is not what Republicans campaigned on, said Heritage Action Chief Executive

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