Bush Pick To Head VA Pledges Health Care Reform
Retired Army Lt. Gen. James Peake, President Bush's nominee for Department of Veterans Affairs secretary, has promised to quickly repair problems in the VA health system if confirmed, according to a 28-page questionnaire submitted to the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee that was obtained Thursday by the Associated Press, the AP/Houston Chronicle reports.
Peake stated that he would work to improve accountability, streamline the VA and Department of Defense health systems and make treating veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder "a very high priority." In addition, Peake said he wants to reduce delays in disability claims decisions from the current average of 180 days to 125 days.
Peake said that he would make efforts to improve and streamline medical record-keeping. He wrote, "Timely is yesterday!" adding, "So my answer is that we need to move as quickly as possible with initiatives that do share digital data and records."
Also in the disclosure, Peake denied having "firsthand" knowledge during his tenure as U.S. Army surgeon general from 2000 to 2004 about substandard care that some veterans were receiving at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Peake also said that if confirmed, he would leave his post as chief medical officer of QTC Management, which has held millions of dollars in contracts with the VA.
Peake, who took an unpaid leave of absence from the company after his nomination, wrote, "If confirmed, I will terminate any connection with QTC, will have no ongoing or residual financial interest in QTC and will recuse myself in any matters related to QTC."
He also promised upon confirmation to divest stock holdings in more than 57 companies, including many pharmaceutical companies that either currently or might do business with the VA, according to a Senate staffer who requested anonymity. The committee on Wednesday is scheduled to consider Peake's nomination (Yen, AP/Houston Chronicle, 11/29).