Understanding the President’s Cabinet: Veterans Affairs Secretary
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Understanding the President’s Cabinet: Veterans Affairs Secretary

Note: This is the sixth in a weekly series of explanatory posts on the officials and agencies included in the President’s Cabinet. See the series introduction here.

Department of Education / U.S. Department of Education (Public Domain)

Cabinet position: Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Department: Department of Veterans Affairs

Current Secretary: David J. Shulkin

Succession: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs is sixteenth in the presidential line of succession.

Department Mission: “The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is responsible for providing vital services to America’s veterans. VA provides health care services, benefits programs and access to national cemeteries to former military personnel and their dependents. The department carries out its duties through three main administrative divisions: Veterans Benefits Administration; Veterans Health Administration; and National Cemetery Administration.” (Source)

Programs: The following programs and offices are included under the VA:

  • Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction
  • Advisory Committee Management Office
  • Board of Veterans’ Appeals
  • Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships
  • Center for Minority Veterans
  • Center for Women Veterans
  • General Counsel
  • Inspector General
  • Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs
  • Office of Employment Discrimination Complaint Adjudication
  • Office of Human Resources and Administration
  • Office of Information and Technology
  • Office of Management
  • Office of Navigation, Advocacy, and Community Engagement (NACE)
  • Office of Operations, Security and Preparedness
  • Office of Enterprise Integration
  • Office of Public & Intergovernmental Affairs
  • Office of Regulation Policy and Management
  • Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization
  • Office of Survivors Assistance
  • Veterans Service Organization Liaison
  • Administrations
  • National Cemetery Administration
  • Veterans Benefits Administration
  • Veterans Health Administration

Department Budget: $182.3 billion in 2017, which includes $78.7 billion in discretionary resources and $103.6 billion in mandatory funding.

Number of employees: Approximately 340,000.


Secretary Info

Secretary: David J. Shulkin

Previous occupation: Served as VA’s Under Secretary for Health

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Hampshire College and MD degree from Medical College of Pennsylvania.

Previous Jobs Held: Chief Medical Officer of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, Temple University Hospital, and the Medical College of Pennsylvania Hospital. He has also held academic positions including Chairman of Medicine and Vice Dean at Drexel University School of Medicine and as Professor of Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Founded and served as Chairman and CEO of DoctorQuality.

Notable achievements:

Author of Questions Patients Need to Ask: Getting the Best Healthcare

American College of Physicians (fellow)

Leonard Davis Institute in Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania (senior fellow)

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania

U.S. Senate Committee on Aging (National Health Policy Fellow)

Notable quotes:

On his connection to the VA: “Our country’s sacred obligation to fully honor our commitments to our Veterans is deeply personal to me. I was born on an Army base. My father was an Army psychiatrist, both grandfathers were Army Veterans, and my paternal grandfather served as Chief Pharmacist at the VA hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. As a young doctor, I trained in VA hospitals. I view my VA service as a duty to give back to the men and women who secured the uniquely American freedoms and opportunities we all enjoy because of the sacrifices they made.”

On reform and privatization of the VA: “I will seek major reform and a transformation of VA. There will be far greater accountability, dramatically improved access, responsiveness and expanded care options, but the Department of Veterans Affairs will not be privatized under my watch.”


Previous and forthcoming posts in this series: Secretary of StateSecretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Education, Secretary of Labor, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Secretary of Homeland Security


Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).