President Donald Trump's noncontroversial pick for Veterans Affairs chief, Robert Wilkie, will head for full Senate confirmation following Tuesday's approval by the Senate VA panel in charge of vetting his nomination.
Wilkie sailed through the panel's confirmation hearing in late June. He promised a thoughtful rollout of the recently passed overhaul of the VA Choice program that consolidates all the existing community-care programs into one and is expected to expand considerably the VA's private sector contracts, which have been plagued with reimbursement problems. The VA healthcare system covers more than 9 million people, about the size of the Obamacare individual market.
Wilkie also vowed that he would not advocate for privatizing the VA, a line that became a trigger in the Choice debate. As acting secretary of the VA after Trump fired VA Secretary David Shulkin, Wilkie presided over passage of the Choice reforms—called the VA Mission Act—on behalf of the department.
A former official with the Pentagon and National Security Council, Wilkie has brandished his credentials as former undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness at the Defense Department. Trump tapped him from this position to head up the post-Shulkin VA in the interim before ultimately nominating him to take the permanent post.