July 20, 2018

Robert Wilkie for Secretary of Veterans Affairs


KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Robert Wilkie has extensive experience, including as the Defense Department’s undersecretary for personnel and readiness responsible for health care and benefits for 9.4 million troops, family members, and retirees.
  • Mr. Wilkie supports the recently passed VA MISSION Act and has committed to implement its important reforms in order to provide veterans with the health care they deserve.
  • Since the elevation of the Department of Veterans Affairs to Cabinet status in 1989, there has never been a recorded “no” vote against any nominee for VA secretary.

President Trump nominated Robert Wilkie to be secretary of veterans affairs at a time when the VA is undergoing important changes. The recently passed VA MISSION Act allows veterans to access a new nationwide network of health care providers working both in the VA and in the community. Robert Wilkie has the experience to lead the VA and implement these important reforms.

bipartisan tradition of approving va secretary

The VA was elevated to a cabinet-level department in 1988. There have been nine secretaries of veterans affairs since – Robert Wilkie would be the 10th. No nominee for VA secretary has received a single recorded “no” vote on the Senate floor.

Not a Single ‘No’ Vote for Any VA Secretary

VA SEC 

experience at dod and va

Robert Wilkie served as the acting secretary of veterans affairs earlier this year, replacing David Shulkin. During this time he continued to serve as the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. The Senate confirmed Mr. Wilkie as undersecretary on November 16, 2017, by voice vote.

As undersecretary of personnel and readiness, Mr. Wilkie oversees the Defense Health Agency, which provides health care to 9.4 million active duty troops, military retirees, and their families. He is the senior DOD official on the VA/DOD Joint Executive Committee, which works to integrate VA’s and DOD’s many information technology systems that process pay, benefits, and health information.

Mr. Wilkie’s time at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill, and as acting secretary of the VA has prepared him for the task of leading the agency responsible for caring for our nation’s veterans. Many of the VA’s challenges stem from a complex web of policies and programs at DOD, which Mr. Wilkie saw firsthand in his role at the Pentagon. In addition, the VA has had difficulty hiring enough people, with 33,000 currently open positions. At DOD, he reformed the hiring process by empowering human resource specialists to address similar recruiting and retention problems.

His nomination has won praise from veterans service organizations. Keith Harman, national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, noted that “Wilkie will bring to the position a knowledge of Capitol Hill, the Pentagon and the VA.” Disabled American Veterans issued a statement saying: “DAV is pleased to hear that Acting Secretary Robert Wilkie will be nominated to permanently serve as the tenth Secretary of Veterans Affairs. …. DAV looks forward to closely working with the future secretary.” John Rowan, national president of Vietnam Veterans of America said: “We are confident that Wilkie, a veteran of both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force, has the credentials and experience to lead the second largest government agency in this nation.”

a lifetime of service

Mr. Wilkie was assistant secretary of legislative affairs in the Department of Defense from 2005-2009, was a special assistant to President Bush for national security affairs, and served on the National Security Council. He is a recipient of the Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest civilian award of the department. He also was a senior advisor for Senators Thom Tillis, Trent Lott, and Jesse Helms.

Mr. Wilkie holds a bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University and advanced degrees from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, Georgetown University, and the Army War College. He is an officer in the Air Force Reserve and previously served in the Navy Reserve as an intelligence officer. He is the son of an Army artillery officer who served in Vietnam. 

Issue Tag: National Security