In 2007, The American Legion awarded Kizer the Distinguished Service Medal, recognizing him as the chief architect and driving force behind the radical transformation of VA health care between 1994 and 1999.

A former Navy diver and member of Post 38 in Rockland, Calif., Kizer "truly understands the concept of veterans helping veterans," National Commander Paul Morin said.

Reflecting on his life as a young orphan following the deaths of his parents, Kizer said that VA benefits provided food and clothing. "And for that I thank the role that The American Legion has played in assuring those benefits were available," he said.

Kizer served as VA's undersecretary of health from 1994 to 1999, significantly overhauling the department. In 2002, Kizer became board chairman of Medsphere Systems Corp. From 2005 to 2007, he served as president and CEO.

Between his VA and Medsphere days, Kizer served as founding president and CEO of National Quality Forum, an organization founded to improve health care through consensus standards.

Reflecting on Kizer's mark on VA and health-care practices, Philip Longman wrote in the January/February 2005 edition of Washington Monthly, "A physician trained in emergency medicine and public health, Kizer was an outsider who immediately started upending the (Veterans Health Administration's) entrenched bureaucracy. He oversaw a radical downsizing and decentralization of management power, implemented pay-for-performance contracts with top executives, and won the right to fire incompetent doctors."

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