Senate confirms VA secretary nominee

Dr. James Peake is ready to take the reins of the Veterans Affairs Department now that the Senate voted Dec. 14 to confirm him.

The former Army surgeon general retired from the Army in 2004 after 40 years of service in military medicine. President Bush nominated Peake to replace James Nicholson, who stepped down as VA secretary Sept. 30.

Bush said one of Peake’s first tasks will be ensuring swift implementation of the recommendations of the President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors. Bush created the commission after media reports earlier this year revealed bureaucratic and administrative roadblocks to proper care for wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

The commission’s recommendations focus on simplifying and streamlining VA benefits and health care processes for service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I am confident that he will build upon our record of improving care, reducing bureaucracy and ensuring that our veterans receive the benefits they deserve,” Bush said in a statement Dec. 14. “His decades of expertise in combat medicine and health care management have provided him with a thorough understanding of the department’s responsibility to care for America’s veterans.”

Peake told lawmakers during his confirmation hearing that he would increase staff at VA clinics and plan better for veterans’ health care needs.

Peake was most recently chief medical director and chief operating officer at QTC Management, which provides medical examination and electronic medical record services to help government agencies manage medical information. Anthony Principi, a former VA secretary, is chairman of the board at QTC.

From 2000 to 2004, Peake was surgeon general of the Army, appointed by President Clinton. In that position, Peake commanded 50,000 medical personnel and 187 Army medical facilities worldwide with an operating budget of $5 billion. He was also commander of several medical posts and is credited with improving the Army medical force’s training and techniques. He was commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School. With more than 30,000 students, it is the largest medical training facility in the world.

Peake graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He was awarded a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam as a platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division. He was wounded twice in battle and received his acceptance letter from Cornell University’s Weill Medical College while in the hospital recovering from his injuries.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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