Retired Lt. Gen. James Peake, the U.S. Armys former senior medical officer and the first physician to be nominated for the top post at the Veterans Affairs Department, faced a raft of questions from a Senate panel over how he would improve communication, quality and access to care within the VA health system.
Flanked by former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, himself a wounded veteran who recently led a commission on VA health, and another World War II veteran, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Peake told members of the Veterans Affairs Committee that he would work to improve the medical-claims process, boost rural-health outreach, and smooth the transition servicemen and servicewomen face when they leave active duty and re-enter civilian life.
Ive spent time in medical centers and in troop units, Peake told the committee. Ive been with them in combat zones and in disaster-response operations.
Peake, who if confirmed would serve for only about a year, was asked what he could accomplish at the agency in such a short time. The former Army surgeon general said that he would put a premium on health research programs and making the VAs extensive use of electronic health records interoperable with the Defense Departments system.
The hearing was the first on Peakes nomination. Next, the committee will vote on whether to approve his nomination. If approved, the nomination would go to the full Senate for a final vote. Many senators said the process could be completed by year-end. -- by Matthew DoBias
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