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Senate Confirms Robert Wilkie as VA Secretary

July 24, 2018
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Robert Wilkie, a nominee of President Trump, was confirmed Monday by the Senate as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs by a vote of 86 to 9.

For about four months, Wilkie has been the acting VA secretary following Trump’s dismissal of former Secretary David Shulkin, M.D. in late March. Wilkie, who is also the Department of Defense undersecretary for personnel and readiness, was Trump’s second nominee for the VA position. The president also nominated Ronny Jackson, M.D., White House physician and rear admiral in the Navy, to serve as VA Secretary, while naming Wilkie the agency’s acting secretary. However, Jackson withdrew due to allegations around his professional conduct.

According to a CNN report, “Nominees to lead the VA are typically confirmed unanimously by the Senate. While Wilkie was confirmed overwhelmingly, the vote was the first time since the VA secretary became a Cabinet position that any senators voted against confirmation.”

Indeed, according to the CNN report, “The nine lawmakers who voted against Wilkie's nomination were mostly Democrats, joined by Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, who cast the lone dissenting vote against advancing Wilkie's nomination in committee. Sanders said then that he voted no because he was concerned that the Trump administration would privatize the VA's health care.”

In his time as Acting VA Secretary, Wilkie has been quite busy with health IT-related projects. In May, he signed the much-anticipated electronic health record (EHR) modernization contract between the VA and Cerner. Although VA announced a year ago that it would be going with Cerner for the contract, negotiations stalled for a variety of reasons. It didn’t help matters that when Shulkin was ousted as VA Secretary; the dismissal led to more uncertainty about when, or even if, the contract would get signed.

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