VA Secretary Nominee Pledges Better Health Care
Retired Army Lt. Gen. James Peake on Wednesday during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee pledged to "do the right thing" as an advocate for injured veterans if he is confirmed as Department of Veterans Affairs secretary, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. He also said that he would not simply be an arm of the administration and would fight for the necessary funds to care for veterans.
"I understand I'm a part of the administration," Peake said, adding, "But I also have a responsibility to the administration and this committee to lay out the situation openly and honestly and to fight for the resources to do my job, which is to take care of veterans."
During the two-and-a-half-hour hearing, Peake promised to make significant headway in addressing treatment gaps and reduce delays in disability payments, although he did not offer specific solutions. Peake said he would be willing to consider a proposal that would guarantee a minimum annual funding level for the department -- a move that generally has been opposed by VA in the past.
During the hearing, Peake also discussed streamlining care and information sharing between the VA and the Department of Defense, as well as providing care to veterans in rural areas. He said he hopes to improve cooperation between VA and the Pentagon to boost treatment for mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
The full Senate is expected to confirm Peake, possibly before the Christmas recess (Yen, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/6).