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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Reader comments

Mon, Dec 5, 2016 Concerned Disabled Veteran

Good. Hopefully. Rep. Roe will be in a great position to take a second look at VA's recent decision to move to USDA's financial offering and, as part of that initiative, chuck out the hugely successful eCMS software in favor of a product that has LESS capability and functionality. Very shortsighted!!! VA will lose control of the contract oversight process and we will see them even more frequently on the front page of the Washington Post.

Fri, Dec 2, 2016

It's nice to see Miller fade away. Too bad he wasn't pressed into service as the head of the VA to see if he, himself, could do all the things he demanded others who have led the VA. I think he ran from the position because he's too weak to walk the walk after talking the talk.

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