With a vote of confidence from Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines, the Senate on Monday confirmed Robert Wilkie as the next secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Wilkie, who served as undersecretary at the Pentagon, steps in as the fourth VA head in five years and will be faced with a number of challenges as the agency works for reform.
“I am confident Secretary Robert Wilkie is the right individual to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs and that he will ensure Montana (and all U.S.) veterans are getting the care and the support they need following their years of service,” Daines said in a statement released after Wilkie’s confirmation.
Daines met with Wilkie on June 25 after President Donald Trump nominated him for the post. Tester did so as well and announced his support for Wilkie in early July.
“By confirming Mr. Wilkie, we do right by the millions of veterans who look to the VA for the health care and benefits they earned in service to our nation,” Tester said. “But our job doesn’t stop today. The Senate must always hold Mr. Wilkie accountable to the millions of American veterans he serves.”
The Senate confirmed Wilkie on an 86-9 vote, making him the 10th VA secretary.
Last month, according to USA Today, the VA inspector general concluded that the agency had more than 2,300 clinical vacancies. As of July 1, nearly 700,000 veterans were waiting longer than a month for appointments.
Some 76,000 of those were waiting longer than six months.
“Mr. Wilkie has experience and a strong commitment to veterans and their families that should serve our men and women in Montana and across our nation,” said Tester. “Veterans need Mr. Wilkie as the VA implements our 10 bipartisan VA reform bills that we’ve gotten signed into law, especially as the VA implements our VA MISSION Act over the next year.”