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VA forms commission to hunt for new health chief


By Bob Herman
Posted: June 17, 2014 - 6:45 pm ET
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The Veterans Affairs Department has created a task force to evaluate candidates for the VA's top health post.

Effective Tuesday, a nine-member commission is meeting in Washington to select the next undersecretary for health for the Veterans Health Administration—the primary department within the VA and the largest health system in the U.S. Dr. Robert Petzel previously held the position, but he resigned in May after revelations of secret waiting lists and VA mismanagement came to light.

“This is one of the most important jobs in government today,” VA Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson said. “This is the largest integrated healthcare system in the country. We need a leader who will be a change agent and deliver necessary reforms to provide our veterans timely access to the world-class healthcare they've earned and deserve.”

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Among the commission members is Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic. Cosgrove was considered a top candidate to take over the scandal-plagued VA Department after Eric Shinseki resigned, but he withdrew his name from consideration this month. Others on the commission include Dr. Kenneth Kizer, former VHA undersecretary, and Dr. John Prescott, chief academic officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges. The VA did not reveal potential undersecretary candidates or a timeframe for when a decision would be made.

Dr. Jeffrey Murawsky, head of the Chicago-based VA Great Lakes Health Care System, was President Barack Obama's top choice to fill the VA health undersecretary void, but he removed himself from the nomination process two weeks ago.

Earlier this month, Gibson released an audit that showed thousands of new VA patients have waited several months to see a doctor, and thousands more still have not secured appointments. The House and Senate are working on a bill that would make it easier for VA patients to receive care at non-VA facilities and would lease new VA facilities.

Follow Bob Herman on Twitter: @MHbherman


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