Congress

House VA committtee gets new boss

Phil Roe 

Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) will replace outgoing Congressman Jeff Miller or Florida as chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) won his race to lead the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs chairman for the 115th Congress, and will assume his new role starting Jan. 3, 2017.

Roe, who was a practicing physician before entering politics, will take a lead role in overseeing the massive department, with more than 350,000 employees and combined mandatory and discretionary spending in excess of $160 billion annually.

"During my time in Congress, veterans' issues have been a top priority for me, and this is not a responsibility I will take lightly," Roe said. "With scandal after scandal, it has become clear there's no federal agency more in need of reform than the VA. I am excited by the opportunity to advance Republican solutions aimed at improving veterans' care."

Roe won the nod from the House's 34-member steering committee, headed by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), which decides party's committee assignments and chairmanships.

Roe will have big shoes to fill. His predecessor, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), who is retiring from Congress, led a committee that was relentless in its pursuit of scandal and maladministration at VA, holding hearings on issues ranging from data security, to the well-documented scheduling system failures, to building cost overruns.

"Under Roe's leadership, I am confident the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs will continue to serve veterans by setting the standard for congressional legislative and oversight accomplishments," Miller said in a statement.

Miller himself has been mentioned as a possible replacement for current VA Secretary Bob McDonald, under the Trump Administration. Former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin are also subjects of speculation for the VA post.

Roe, 71, is himself a veteran. He served in the US Army Medical Corps in South Korea, and was discharged as a Major. He was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Defense Service Medal and the Army Commendation Medal.

Roe spent 30-plus years as a private obstetrics and gynecology specialist, and, by his count, "delivered nearly 5,000 babies."

Since 2009, the physician has represented Tennessee's 1st district, and has served on HVAC and as a member on the Subcommittees on Health and on Oversight and Investigations.

In 2015, Roe introduced a bill that would offer a $50 million award to develop an electronic health records system interoperable between VA and the Department of Defense. The bill was never put to a vote.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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