Denis McDonough: What to know about Biden’s VA secretary pick

Denis McDonough: What to know about Biden’s VA secretary pick

President
Biden
entered
office
Wednesday
without
any
cabinet
members
by
his
side,
as
they
await
confirmation
hearings
in the
U.S.

Senate.

Cabinet
members
in
the
Biden
administration
will
be
faced
with
uniting
the
various
sectors
of
the
U.S.
government
during
a
time
of
division.
But
in
an
attempt
to
stop
the
partisan
divide
in
and
outside
of
Washington,
Biden
vowed
to
nominate
“the
most
diverse
Cabinet
in
history.”

Several
of
his
picks
have
already
made
history,
with
the
first
openly
gay
man
to
be
selected as
Transportation
Secretary,
alongside
the
first
Native
American
female
as
Secretary
of
Interior

an
attempt
by
the
Democratic
president
to
establish
a
Cabinet
that
reflects
the
diversity
of
the
nation.

Some
of
Biden’s
picks
have
raised
eyebrows,
including
his
choice
to
lead
the
Department
of
Veteran
Affairs,
a
$240
billion
agency
struggling
under
a

sexual
assault
scandal
and
a
reputation
of
inadequate
veterans
healthcare.

If
confirmed
by
the
Senate,

Denis
McDonough
will
become
only
the
second
non-veteran
to
serve
in
the
roll.


Who
is
McDonough?

The
soon
to
be
Secretary
of
Veteran
Affairs
may
not
have
any
military
or
healthcare
experience,
but
he
is
no
stranger
to
the
White
House.

McDonough
got
his
first
taste
of
serving
in
the
highest
office
in
the
U.S.
as
a
senior
adviser
on
foreign
policy
affairs
for
President Obama’s
transition
team
in
2008.

He
then
served
as
the
Chief
of
Staff
of
the
National
Security
Council
before
becoming
the
Deputy
National
Security
Adviser
for
Obama

serving
in
the
role
during
the
2011
Navy
Seal
raid
in
Pakistan
that
resulted
in
the
death
of
al-Qaeda
leader
Osama
bin
Laden.

He
became
Obama’s
Chief
of
Staff
in
2013.


What
has
he
done?

McDonough
was
reportedly
instrumental
in
bridging
divides
in
congress
to
help
get
the
Veterans
Choice
Act
passed
in
2014,
according
to
the

Washington
Post.
The
act,
which

President
Trump attempted
to
claim
some
credit for,
enabled
veterans
to
seek
providers
outside
of VA
medical
centers.

Biden
was
also
reportedly
impressed
by
McDonough’s
immersive
attitude
by
regularly
visiting
troops
in
the
field
and checking on
the
Walter
Reed
National
Military
Medical
Center,
while
he
served
in
the
Obama
administration,
reported

Politico
last
month.
 


How
do
veterans
feel
about
him?

The
former
Obama-era
official
has
caught
some
veterans
off
guard
who
were
hoping
to
see
a
post-9/11
veteran
fill
the
position.

“We
are
surprised
by
reports
the
President-Elect
Joe
Biden
intends
to
nominate
Denis
McDonough
to
become
the
next
secretary
of
the
U.S.
Department
of
Veterans
Affairs,”
American
Veterans
(AMVETS)
National
Executive
Director
Joe
Chenelly
told
Fox
News
in
a
statement
last
month,
after
Biden
first
made
his
announcement.

“We
were
expecting
a
veteran,
maybe
a
post-9/11
veteran.
Maybe
a
woman
veteran,”
he
continued.
“Or
maybe
a
veteran
who
knows
the
VA
exceptionally
well.”

But
Jeremy
Butler, chief
executive
of
the
advocacy
group,
Iraq
and
Afghanistan
Veterans
of
America, applauded
McDonough’s
official
nomination
Wednesday

though
he noted
the
challenges
the
secretary
would
face
if
confirmed
— not
least
of
which
is
ensuring
veterans
get
access
to
the
coronavirus
vaccine.

“Good
to
see
the
roster
of
[Department
of
Veteran
Affairs]
leadership
coming
together,”
Bulter
said
in
a
tweet
Wednesday.
“I
support
the
nomination
of
Denis
McDonough
as
the
next
Secretary
but
there
is
no
denying
that
he
will
need
a
strong
and
experienced
team
to
learn
from
and
help
him
meet
the
needs
of
the
nation’s
veterans.”


What
he
plans
to
do

McDonough
said
that
he
will
prioritize
“making
our
VA
more
welcoming
to
all
veterans,
including
our
women
veterans,
veterans
of
color
and
LGBTQ
veterans,”
reported
the

Military
Times.

Biden
has
said
he
wants
to
expand
the
VA
budget
and
to
bring
in
more healthcare
professionals,
including
medical
officials
from
the
private
sector,
in
order
to
enhance
the
care
that
veterans
can
expect
to
receive.

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The
former
Obama-era
official
said
he
will
work
to
rebuild
veteran’s
trust
in
the
VA system
by
improving
the
agency’s
management
and
accountability.

“The
agency
charged
with
meeting
the
needs
of
veterans
should
not
be
limited
by
outdated
tools
and
practices,”
he
wrote
in
a
personal
pledge
published
by

Military
Times
in
December.
“Our
veterans
deserve
the
best
we
as
a
nation
have
to
offer.”

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