01/27/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 01/27/2021 22:36
(U.S. Senate) - U.S. Senator Jon Tester led his first hearing today as Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee on the nomination of Denis R. McDonough to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA).
'Though there is a great political divide in this nation, veterans across the country and members on both sides of the aisle are united by a very basic expectation-that the next VA Secretary be an individual of honesty, integrity and vision, who listens to veterans and puts their well-being above all else,' said Chairman Tester. 'If you keep your head down and live up to that expectation, you will be successful. And in the end, we all want you to succeed because veterans across this country need you to succeed.'
At the hearing, Tester pressed McDonough on the responsibility of leading the nation's second largest federal agency.
'Denis, out of the top jobs in the administration for which you would be well-qualified, why this one?' Tester questioned.
'I'm a fighter and I'm relentless,' replied McDonough. 'I'm particularly relentless about things that I have a passion for. Having had the professional experience of the last 20 years since September 11th 2001-and having witnessed up close the tremendous service, excellence, and sacrifice of our military and our veterans-I have great passion for making sure that we treat them as well as they have treated us. So when the president called me to talk about this assignment, I could not have been more excited, more humbled and more committed to seeing it through. And if confirmed, I will apply that fight and that passion to ensure that we do live up to our promises.'
The Senator also challenged McDonough to address the growing claims backlog at the Department, implement critical reforms consistent with Congressional intent, monitor the expansion of the caregiver program and implementation of the new electronic health record (EHR) system, support ongoing COVID-19 vaccine efforts, and live up to the promises to veterans nationwide.
Tester's opening statement as prepared for delivery can be found HERE.