Tester to VA Secretary Nominee: The Buck Stops with You

Senator Asks Robert Wilkie to Outline His Vision for the VA

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester has a crystal clear message for VA Secretary nominee Robert Wilkie: The buck stops with you.

During a confirmation hearing today before the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Tester urged Wilkie to bring courage, honesty, and integrity to the post of VA Secretary if confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

“My only advice to you is to take your cues from veterans and do what you think is right,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Committee. “Because I want you to succeed, I really do. And veterans across this country need you to succeed.”

Tester also noted that non-partisan senior leaders and experts are leaving the VA in droves because inappropriate political pressure is driving them out.

“We are seeing political interest groups given a seat at the table instead of veterans,” said Tester. “I hope you agree that this type of behavior undermines the VA’s mission to serve the millions of veterans who rely on the VA. The VA has larger challenges ahead.  It simply cannot afford to get weighed down by unforced errors.”

Tester told Wilkie that he will hold him accountable for implementing the bipartisan VA MISSION Act, which Tester and Chairman Johnny Isakson drafted.

“For years, we heard that problems with the Choice Program were largely a result of the VA having little time to roll-out the program,” said Tester. “That is not the case with the VA MISSION Act because Congress gave the VA a full year to implement the new Veterans Community Care Program.” 

Tester also asked Wilkie to outline his plan to address workforce shortages at the VA.

“My top concern for the VA Health Care System is the shortages in both clinical and non-clinical occupations across the country,” said Tester. “You must do everything you can to make VA a more attractive place to work because we have more than 200 clinical vacancies in Montana and that’s unacceptable.”

Tester’s opening statement is available online HERE. More information about today’s confirmation hearing of VA Secretary nominee Robert Wilkie is available online HERE.