WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) released the following statement after the Senate voted 86-9 to confirm Robert Wilkie to serve as the next Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA):
“I want to congratulate Mr. Wilkie on his confirmation as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. When I met with him earlier this month, Mr. Wilkie committed to me that he will focus on continuing to make improvements at the VA to ensure that our veterans receive the very best care and that he will oppose any attempt to privatize the agency.
“Following years of efforts, legislation I introduced to authorize long-awaited leases for new VA medical facilities—including two new Virginia facilities in Hampton Roads and Fredericksburg—was signed into law last year. I supported Mr. Wilkie’s nomination in part because he expressed a strong willingness to work together so that these new facilities will soon be ready for Virginia veterans who are still traveling too far and waiting too long to receive medical care.
“The VA has one of the most important and difficult missions of all of our federal agencies. Now that he has been confirmed, Mr. Wilkie needs to take the reins of an agency that is in desperate need of leadership. I look forward to helping him succeed in this new role. The well-being of our nation’s veterans depends on it.”
President Trump nominated Mr. Wilkie to serve as his next VA Secretary in May, a position that at the time he was filling temporarily following the firing of former VA Secretary David Shulkin. Earlier this month, Sen. Warner met with Mr. Wilkie in his Senate office where he pressed him on the need to reform the VA without privatizing the system, improve care for veterans at VA facilities, and continue reducing wait times for veteran patients. Virginia is home to three VA medical centers that serve the Commonwealth’s veteran population: McGuire VA Medical Center (Richmond), Hampton VA Medical Center, and Salem VA Medical Center.
Mr. Wilkie, a native of Fayetteville, North Carolina, most recently served as the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, a position he was nominated to by President Trump and approved unanimously by the Senate. Wilkie previously served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs under Defense Secretaries Robert Gates and Donald Rumsfeld. He also served as Special Assistant to President George W. Bush for National Security Affairs and as Senior Director of the National Security Council under Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In the Senate, he served as an aide to Sens. Jesse Helms (R-NC), Trent Lott (R-MS), and Thom Tillis (R-NC).
In the Senate, Sen. Warner spearheaded a bipartisan effort to approve overdue VA medical leases, including two new outpatient clinics in Hampton Roads and Fredericksburg, a measure which Congress approved last year. He also led a legislative effort to restore tax payments to combat-injured veterans, which resulted in more than 133,000 notifications sent to veterans by the Department of Defense (DoD). Recently, he pressed the VA on critical failures that have endangered veterans at the D.C. Medical Center and the quality of care at nursing homes in Virginia and across the country.