The United States Senate on July 23 overwhelmingly voted to approve President Trump’s latest pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, confirming Robert Wilkie as the next secretary 86 to 9.
Mr. Wilkie, 55, will lead the second-largest department in the federal government, overseeing about 360,000 employees and the vast veterans healthcare system.
He is taking over a department in turmoil. Veterans Affairs, which has struggled for years to provide timely and efficient care, has been without permanent leadership since the previous secretary, David J. Shulkin, was fired in March. The department is also dealing with thousands of job vacancies and staff turnover at the highest levels.
Mr. Wilkie will be responsible for stabilizing the department and revamping the veterans healthcare system to make it easier for veterans to take their benefits to private doctors.
Mr. Wilkie is a career Washington insider who has worked for Senators Jesse Helms, Trent Lott and Thom Tillis, and was an assistant defense secretary under George W. Bush.
He has served as acting secretary of Veterans Affairs, and as under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, where he handled the health and welfare of all military personnel.
He was nominated to become secretary after Mr. Trump’s first choice fell through. The president originally nominated the White House physician, Dr. Ronny L. Jackson, who withdrew from consideration in April after disparaging reports about him circulated before his scheduled confirmation hearing.
Mr. Trump announced his intention to nominate Mr. Wilkie in May, surprising even Mr. Wilkie himself, who had not been told of the decision before the president slipped the news into remarks he made ahead of a meeting on prison reform.
Mr. Wilkie, who was sitting in the front row at the event, stood up and shook Mr. Trump’s hand after hearing the news.
He was a largely uncontested choice, receiving backing from both parties.