Know a Nominee: Denis McDonough to Be Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Do you support or oppose McDonough’s nomination?
- The Senate voted 87-7 on Monday to confirm Denis McDonough as Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
The Senate is expected to vote Monday evening on the confirmation of Denis McDonough to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA). Here’s what you need to know about the nominee:
Who is Denis McDonough?
- McDonough, 51, served as a deputy national security advisor for more than two years during the Obama administration, then served as the White House chief of staff for the entirety of Obama’s second term.
- After the Obama administration ended, McDonough worked for the Markle Foundation and helped to build up public-private partnerships for the organization, which focuses on expanding job training and employment opportunities for Americans.
- Prior to the Obama administration, McDonough worked as a foreign policy advisor to several senators and the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
- McDonough earned an undergraduate degree from Saint John’s University in Minnesota and a master's degree in foreign service from Georgetown University.
What’s the outlook for his nomination?
- The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee advanced McDonough’s nomination favorably on a voice vote.
- During his confirmation hearings, Republican senators pressed McDonough on whether he would continue to implement the VA MISSION Act ― a bipartisan law enacted in 2018 to give veterans expanded access to private healthcare providers in their communities if VA care is deficient, would be delayed, or is distant from the veteran’s home.
- McDonough said that if confirmed he would continue to implement the VA community care program in consultation with Congress, and would grow the network of private providers.
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) expressed concerns that veterans’ care could be entirely outsourced to the private sector, and McDonough told him that he doesn’t support the privatization of all VA care.
What does it mean for the VA?
- The VA provides veterans benefits that go beyond healthcare, although its medical services make up the bulk of its budget and workforce, as it has been responsible for administering veterans’ education benefits and disability claims, among other benefits, since the enactment of the GI Bill. The VA divides those responsibilities under several sub-entities, and had a total of roughly 374,000 employees at the end of 2019.
- Of those, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is the largest with about 335,500 active employees, while the Veterans Benefits Administration has about 23,500 employees, staff offices have just over 13,000 employees, and the National Cemetery Administration has nearly 2,000 employees.
- The VA is also the largest provider of medical teaching programs in the U.S., and each year about 120,000 health professional trainees learn there.
- The VA’s budget has grown significantly in recent years, from about $45 billion in FY2001 to $125 billion in FY2011, and its budget reached an all-time high of $217 billion for FY2020 ― about three-fifths of which goes to medical benefits and disability claims.
— Eric Revell
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