Dear Mr. President:
American Veterans (AMVETS) strongly urges you to reconsider your appointment of Robert Wilkie as acting VA secretary, and instead, to elevate the VA’s current deputy secretary to that position, as prescribed by federal law.
Deputy VA Secretary Thomas Bowman is a retired Marine Corps colonel and former majority staff director of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. He has previously served as chief of staff for two VA secretaries in Republican administrations, and as the VA’s second in command, the law predesignates him for elevation to acting secretary.
Real, reasonable reform is underway within the VA, and veterans are depending with their lives on that momentum to carry improvements forward. While Mr. Wilkie may be a very bright person and leader, he does not know the VA or its problems. He’s at square one, as any outsider would be. And while there’s no doubt he would grow into the position over time, veterans don’t have that time. Veterans can’t wait. Deputy Secretary Bowman, on the other hand, clearly has the knowledge and experience veterans deserve from an acting secretary. He has earned the trust of Congress, and he’s clearly the best positioned and equipped to lead the VA right now and provide the continuity of vision and effort that the progress made so far deserves, and that he alone can ensure.
It is critical, Mr. President, that you do what is necessary and right to ensure positive momentum continues at VA while the U.S. Senate considers your nominee, Dr. Ronny Jackson. In Bowman, you have an exceedingly qualified and experienced public servant intimately familiar with the VA and currently holding the position federal law designates to become acting secretary. Sidestepping Bowman in favor of an outsider wholly unfamiliar with the VA is a confusing choice that only serves to erode confidence in the VA as an institution during this critical time. Send Robert Wilkie back to the Pentagon, and elevate Deputy Secretary Bowman to acting secretary. This is what common sense, veterans and the law all require, and it needs to happen now.
Yours in service to our nation’s veterans,
AMVETS National Commander