Denis McDonough, President Joe Biden’s pick for Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), received Senate confirmation on Feb. 8 to lead the federal agency charged with caring for the nation’s veterans. The vote was 87 to 7.
American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford congratulated McDonough.
“The honor given to you today is matched by the solemn obligation that we all have in fulfilling Lincoln’s promise to ‘care for him who shall have borne the battle’ and to equally advocate for women veterans and the families of all who have served as well,” Oxford said.
McDonough is taking the helm at VA amid the COVID-19 pandemic. One of his primary tasks will be undertaking the massive effort to distribute the coronavirus vaccine to veterans enrolled in the VA health-care system as well as VA health-care workers. That task is no small order. New data from VA shows 214,960 cumulative cases and 9,505 known deaths as a result of COVID-19.
After his nomination to the Cabinet post, McDonough has pledged to make getting veterans through the pandemic his top priority.
“I’ve been given a clear mission by President Biden. To be a fierce, staunch, advocate for veterans and their families,” McDonough said during his confirmation hearing. “This is not a mission I take on alone. Every federal agency has a role in supporting our veterans. If confirmed, I will make that happen, because when it comes to supporting our veterans and their families, every American has a role to play.”
The newly Cabinet secretary has vowed to work to ensure that all veterans — including women veterans, veterans of color and LGBTQ+ veterans — feel welcome at VA. He also plans to work to eliminate veteran homelessness and to reduce the suicide rate in the veteran population.
McDonough is the second non-veteran to serve as VA secretary, but he brings a wealth of knowledge in government operations and crisis management to the federal agency. He previously served as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff. Prior to that, he served as the deputy national security advisor, the chief of staff of the National Security staff and as the deputy national security advisor for strategic communications.
“There are many great challenges today facing America’s veterans,” Oxford said. “Whether it’s the efficient distribution of COVID-19 vaccines or legislation addressing toxic exposures, the VA will always find an informed and eager ally in The American Legion. Congratulations, Secretary McDonough. The American Legion is rooting for your success in enhancing the quality of life for America’s veterans.”