The Department of Veterans Affairs is getting a new second-in-command.
The Senate voted 50-46 on Tuesday to confirm VA Chief of Staff Tanya Bradsher to serve as the department’s deputy secretary. Bradsher is the first woman, and the first woman of color, to hold this title at the VA.
“As deputy secretary, I promise to do everything in my power to ensure that every veteran gets the world-class care and benefits they deserve,” Bradsher said in a statement following her Senate confirmation Tuesday.
Bradsher, an Army combat veteran with more than 20 years of service, told senators at her confirmation hearing she’ll focus on getting the department’s troubled rollout of a new electronic health record (EHR) back on track, and improve outreach to veterans who are transitioning out of active-duty military service.
The VA is currently in a “reset” period with the Oracle-Cerner EHR rollout, and won’t schedule new EHR deployments until the department is confident the system shows improvement at the five current sites using the system.
Bradsher told the Senate VA Committee in May that the VA will only resume go-lives of the Oracle-Cerner EHR “when it is fully ready,” and shows improvement at the five VA sites already using it. She also told the committee she’s focused on rebuilding trust with and reaching out to “untethered veterans,” who have never opted into VA care or benefits.
“I’ve seen what it looks like when one of my fellow soldiers transitions out of the military and gets the support they deserve from the VA, how they live happier, healthier, and more fulfilled lives,” she said. “I’ve also seen what it looks like when that doesn’t happen.”
VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement that Bradsher is an “incredible leader who has dedicated her life to fighting for this country and her fellow veterans.”
“At VA, it’s our job to fight like hell for Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors —and I know that Tanya Bradsher will do that every day as deputy secretary,” McDonough said.
Senate VA Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said in a statement Wednesday that he looks forward to working with Bradsher “in this new role to implement needed reforms.”
“Now more than ever, the department needs a strong second-in-command to uphold its mission to deliver veterans the health care and benefits they have earned, and having a confirmed leader in this role better ensures we can hold VA accountable,” Tester said in a statement Tuesday.
Prior to joining the VA, Bradsher held jobs in Congress, at the White House, the Defense Health Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
Among those roles, she served as chief of staff for Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) between 2019 and 2021.
Beyer said in a statement that Bradsher “just made history as the first woman and first woman of color ever confirmed to this position, and she will also bring the knowledge and perspective of a fourth-generation Army soldier to the highest levels of leadership at the VA.”
The Senate voted Monday to bring Bradsher’s nomination to a final floor vote, over the objections of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Grassley put a hold on Bradsher’s nomination in July, over claims she didn’t follow up with VA whistleblowers and their reports that a VA system exposed veterans’ sensitive personal and medical information.
Grassley said in a statement last Thursday said Bradsher, in her current role as VA chief of staff, and the rest of the department have “shown repeated indifference to congressional oversight” as his office looks into claims of whistleblower retaliation.
“If confirmed, Ms. Bradsher would be in charge of the VA’s effort to modernize veterans’ electronic health records. This involves the health care records of millions of veterans, which obviously contain huge amounts of sensitive information,” Grassley said. “Ms. Bradsher’s failures on privacy issues as chief of staff and her lack of transparency to the Veterans Affairs Committee show that we can’t trust her to secure this sensitive information or to take the lead and address agency failures, of which VA has many.”
Grassley said the Office of Special Counsel already found a “substantial likelihood of wrongdoing” that the VA violated federal privacy laws.