The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee today voted 14-0 to approve the nomination of retired Lt. Gen. James Peake, M.D., the former U.S. Army's Surgeon General and the first physician to be nominated for the top post at the Veterans Affairs Department.
"Today, the committee took a major step towards ensuring permanent leadership at VA," Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), chairman of the VA committee, said in a statement.
Next, Peake's nomination will go to the full Senate for one last vote. It is unclear, however, when that vote will occur. Akaka said he wants to push through the nomination before Congress adjourns for the Christmas recess.
During his confirmation hearing on Dec. 5, lawmakers praised the decorated Vietnam veteran for his "foxhole to the hospital" view of service. At the time, Peake, 63, pledged to improve the care that wounded servicemen and women receive as they transition from active duty to civilian life. Part of that, he said, includes improving the lines of communication between VA and the Department of Defense.
Peake also said he would focus efforts on improving the medical-claims process, boost rural-health outreach and increase mental health programs at the federal department.