Robert Wilkie approved to lead VA 

The Senate confirmed nominee Robert Wilkie as secretary of Veterans Affairs with a vote of 86-9. 

This is the first time senators have voted against a VA secretary nominee on the Senate floor. 

Mr. Wilkie takes the helm at a challenging time for the VA. He is tasked with leading its $16 billion EHR modernization project while filling a leadership vacuum. As of late June, the agency lacked a deputy secretary, an undersecretary for health, a deputy undersecretary, an assistant secretary in the Office of Information and Technology, and a deputy in OIT.

Mr. Wilkie served as acting VA secretary after David Shulkin, MD, left the role. He stepped down to allow for the nomination, which came as a surprise at a May 18 prison summit. Mr. Wilkie also served as the undersecretary for personnel and readiness in the Defense Department. He is a reserve officer in the Air Force, assigned to the Office of the Chief of Staff, and previously served in the Navy as an intelligence officer. He also previously served as adviser to former Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., two politicians with controversial views, which Mr. Wilkie addressed in his June 27 Senate hearing

As secretary, Mr. Wilkie could also face pressure from President Donald Trump to privatize the VA. Mr. Wilkie has committed to opposing any privatization efforts, even if it costs him his position. Dr. Shulkin claims he was let go for opposing the president on privatization. 

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