By: Thomas (Tom) Waters, Lt. Colonel, USAF (Ret), Ed.D. / firstname.lastname@example.org
As I begin this article, I am still saying that the Confirmation Hearing will be concluded and voted on sometime in late July or early August 2018. So, at this time we are patiently waiting for the final vote by the US Senate.
I gave you MY opinion of Mr. Robert Wilke in the last article and I’ll repeat that opinion here as well. Will he receive a unanimous vote by the US Senate? Your guess is as good as mine but I predict that he will be confirmed by a large bi-partisan vote. In MY opinion, he deserves to be confirmed for all the rationale stated in my previous article.
So, let’s talk about WHEN he is confirmed and what steps he will need to take right away.
HOLD EVERYTHING – STOP THE PRESSES!!!!!!
I just received word that Mr. Wilke was confirmed by the US Senate by a large Bi-Partisan vote of 86-9. I guess MY Crystal Ball is still working after all. There were 8 Democratic Senators and 1 Independent Senator who voted against the Confirmation for various reasons. He secured the backing of many Democrats when he insisted during the Confirmation Hearing that he would “definitely NOT” privatize the government’s second largest Department.
Now, let’s get back to the HEAVY TASK that he faces from this moment on.
While I try to keep these articles Non-Political and not intentionally criticize any of our Congressional Delegation, I do want to offer PRAISE when duly earned. Since I look for items that benefit Veterans, Retired Veterans, and Active Duty personnel, I follow Senator Dean Heller closer than the others since he serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Today, he was one of the “Yea” votes to confirm Robert Wilke as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. I listened carefully during the Confirmation Hearing when Senator Heller pushed for a Full Time Doctor for the Pahrump VA Clinic where they have struggled to get and keep a Doctor on the staff. He also pushed for benefits for Blue Water Navy Veterans that were exposed to Agent Orange off the coast of Vietnam but have been refused benefits because they were not physically “In-Country” during the war. I applaud Senator Heller for these efforts and encourage him to “stay the course.”
I want to add that, as near as I can determine, Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto also cast a “Yea” vote for Secretary Wilke. She is also a supporter of Veteran issues but does not serve on the Armed Forces Committee so some of her accomplishments are overlooked.
Even with an 86-9 affirmative vote, Robert Wilke is the first VA Secretary who has failed to receive unanimous Senate confirmation in this divided Congress where political tensions are strained. He was clearly the right choice for the job.
Why are we so concerned about this position and why do we keep talking about it? Well, for Veterans, it is a crucial position. That is because “The United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) is the head of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and this is the Department that is concerned with Veterans’ Benefits, Healthcare, and National Veterans’ Memorials and Cemeteries.”
The person who fills this position (now, Mr. Robert Wilke) reports to the President of the United States, is a member of the President’s Cabinet, and is 17th in line of succession to the office of President. In this position he will lead 360,000 employees while serving the needs of approximately 9 million veterans.
Earlier, I mentioned the steps he’ll need to take right away if he is going to survive this awesome responsibility. Since he is now the head of the US Government’s second largest Department (Department of Defense being the largest) that covers several areas like Veterans’ Benefits, Healthcare, and National Veterans’ Memorials and Cemeteries, he must “keep the train on the tracks” while attempting to stop the “in-fighting” that damaged previous VA Secretaries and paralyzed the VA in its role or providing first-class healthcare for Veterans.
Mr. Wilke is President Trump’s third selection to head the VA since he has been President. I remain concerned that Wilke’s predecessors were “fired” because they refused to discuss or they “dragged their feet” on the President’s desire to Privatize the VA Healthcare System. Where will Mr. Wilke stand when he faces the wrath of the President for not even considering the President’s campaign promise? In these final months before the Congressional midterm elections, Mr. Wilke faces the tasks of satisfying his clients (9 million veterans), his employees (all 360,000), and his Boss (the President). He also has to remove or otherwise silence the people within the VA who seek to undermine his efforts and his goals to make the VA a premier Healthcare System.
We will continue to follow Mr. Wilke closely and hope for a better environment at the Veterans Administration.
If you missed any of my earlier articles you can go to the Veterans Reporter-News webpage at <https://www.veteransreporternews.com/> to review any Back Issues.
I hear from MANY readers about my articles (most are positive) and I thank you for your positive or challenging “constructive” comments. Feel free to contact me if you believe any of the information provided is inaccurate or if you have additional information that I can share with our readers.