Robert Wilkie is your new VA Secretary

Matt Saintsing
July 23, 2018 - 6:32 pm

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dallas Johnson

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After a boisterous few months at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Pentagon official Robert Wilkie is officially the 10th VA Secretary.

Wilkie, 55, is President Donald Trump’s third nominee to lead the agency in 18 months. The son of an Army artilleryman, he served in the Navy and Air Force Reserves. He has rich experience as a long-time public official, having served various Republicans on Capitol Hill and most recently, inside the Pentagon.  

He easily won confirmation after the Senate VA Committee overwhelmingly advanced his nomination. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was the only “no” vote, who voiced concerns that the administration is trying to “privatize” the VA.

He inherits the government’s second largest agency which continues to be plagued by staffing shortages and other organizational troubles.

Wilkie was first selected by Trump after firing David Shulkin, Trump’s first VA Secretary, who was ousted amid ethical concerns and internal strife between the department and other parts of the administration over private care for veterans in need.

Republicans on Capitol Hill continue to sing Wilkie’s praises shortly after earning the Senate’s approval.

“He was instrumental in moving the VA MISSION Act through Congress, and I know he will be the strong leader the department needs during implementation,” said Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

“We still have much work ahead of us as we strive to ensure our nation’s veterans receive the benefits and care they deserve, and I know we will work together to continue to deliver on the promises this country has made to the men and women who served.”

Wilkie takes on the task of fulfilling President Donald Trump's promises to fire bad VA employees and steer more patients to the private sector. While pledging to "shake up complacency" at VA, the Air Force and Navy veteran has also assured Democrats he will not privatize the department and will keep VA health care "fully funded."

Nine senators voted against Wilkie’s nomination, all Democrats: Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Ron Wyden (Ore.) Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), and Bernie Sanders (Vt.)

Sanders is technically an independent, however, he caucuses with the Democrats.

The newly approved VA secretary will have a busy schedule ahead in the coming year as he must contend with VA Choice funding and implementation of the VA MISSION ACT, a sweeping bill that expands healthcare options for veterans.

“We look forward to working closely with Secretary Wilkie and his staff to ensure America’s veterans receive the healthcare, education, and other benefits they have earned through their selfless service to our great nation,” said Denise Rohan, The American Legion’s national commander.

According to the Associated Press, Trump selected Wilkie for the post in May after firing David Shulkin. Trump's initial replacement choice, White House doctor Ronny Jackson, withdrew after allegations of workplace misconduct surfaced.

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