Tester Presses Nominee for VA’s #2 Official: ‘Why do you want this job?’

At confirmation hearing, Chairman pushed Deputy Secretary nominee to hold DoD accountable to veterans, implement PACT Act, and more

(U.S. Senate) – During a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing today, Chairman Jon Tester questioned Tanya Bradsher, the nominee to be the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Deputy Secretary, on her qualifications and ability to serve. If confirmed, Bradsher would be the Department’s second highest official and Chief Operating Officer tasked with running the day-to-day operations at VA, as well as the first woman to hold the position.

“You have an admirable background in both military and civilian service,” said Tester. “You are currently Chief of Staff of the VA which isn’t exactly a job of chopped liver—it’s pretty damn important. Why do you want this job?”

“Being in a Senate-confirmed position—I can help more veterans,” replied Ms. Bradsher. “I have thoroughly enjoyed being Chief of Staff but…at the end of the day I just want to take care of veterans. And I can take care of more veterans as Deputy than as Chief.”

Tester also highlighted major challenges facing VA’s number two official—including overseeing the roll-out of the Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) program and strengthening VA’s collaboration with the Department of Defense (DoD) on the VA-DoD Joint Executive Committee.

Underscoring the role of the Deputy Secretary to work with DoD to implement the electronic health record transition and PACT Act implementation, Tester asked: “You as Deputy Secretary would serve as co-chair of the VA-DoD Joint Executive Committee [JEC]…how would you…force [DoD] to be more accountable to the veteran?”

“If confirmed to serve as Deputy Secretary, I would hope to work with the JEC to interact with the servicemembers who have deployed, so that they have PACT Act information before they ever get out of the military,” replied Bradsher. “We really need to have them identified so that they are able to understand what PACT Act is, what those presumptives are, and a system so that when its time for them to transition…they know the next step is us, and that we’re going to be able to take care of them…throughout their lives.”

Tester also emphasized the need for DoD and VA to improve the transition process for servicemembers leaving the military, and questioned Bradsher on how she would use her position as JEC Co-Chair to bolster the transition process. In her answer, Bradsher affirmed she would work to ensure VA can “break through” to servicemembers and ensure they are made aware of their health care and benefits, including mental health care.

Bradsher is a U.S. Army veteran who currently serves as the VA Chief of Staff. She has also worked in Congress, at the White House, the Defense Health Agency, and the Department of Homeland Security.