Veterans Affairs

Search for new VA chief continues

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With 17 days left before Inauguration Day, the Trump transition team is continuing its search for the next secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

On a Jan. 3 call with reporters, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said that President-elect Donald Trump is meeting with Leo MacKay, a senior vice-president at Lockheed Martin, and Joseph Guzman, a professor at Michigan State University. Both have military experience.

MacKay served as the deputy secretary of the VA under President George W. Bush.

Guzman, a member of the National Hispanic Advisory Council, served as the deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force and as the first deputy assistant secretary of the Navy.

Spicer said that Guzman "is a board member of the Armed Forces Foundation," a now-defunct charity for veterans and "has ample executive experience in the military and a variety of public-sector experience."

Trump has also met with former Sen. Scott Brown and Pete Hegseth, a former Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, a Fox news commentator and a former spokesperson for veterans groups Concerned Veterans for America and Vets for Freedom. Trump also discussed the job with Jeff Miller, the recently retired congressman who chaired the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

The top VA post has proved difficult to fill.

Dr. Toby Cosgrove, CEO of the Cleveland Clinic and a former Air Force surgeon, who was a top candidate to serve as VA secretary under President Obama, has withdrawn his name from consideration. Luis Quinonez, a businessman and veteran of the Marine Corps and Naval Reserves who served on Trump's National Hispanic Advisory Council during the campaign, said he could not take the post for health reasons.

Retaining current VA chief Bob McDonald does not appear to be an option.

Trump has promised substantial changes to the VA within his first 100 days in office and appears to be tilting toward greater privatization of health care services for vets.

Trump spokesman Jason Miller told reporters in December that, "whoever takes this position will be someone to understands how the bureaucracy works, someone who isn't afraid to get in there and institute some very strong reforms, and to make sure that we're delivering for veterans."

The VA spends about $4 billion annually on IT. It's in the midst of a push to build out more digital services for veterans, expand telehealth options and build a digital health platform to improve patient care and recordkeeping.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a former FCW staff writer.

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