WASHINGTON — An Army veteran will serve as the first woman in the second-highest leadership post at the Department of Veterans Affairs after earning a long-awaited confirmation by the Senate.
Tanya Bradsher, 53, will be sworn in as VA deputy secretary in the coming days and be the first woman of color in the job. She spent 20 years in the Army and deployed to Iraq before retiring as a lieutenant colonel and forging a career in government.
“Now more than ever, the [VA] 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,” said Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
Bradsher was confirmed in a 50-46 vote on Tuesday following a two-month hold on her nomination by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who had objected to her performance as the current chief of staff to VA Secretary Denis McDonough.
Grassley and other Republicans took issue with Bradsher’s role in overseeing an internal VA correspondence service known as VIEWS that did not properly secure the personal information of veterans, employees and whistleblowers. Bradsher’s critics said she and others at the department stonewalled lawmakers looking into the problem.
“I will oppose this nominee due to the well-documented stiff-arm she has given Congress, her failure to protect sensitive veteran information, and her penchant for providing misleading information to the Senate,” Grassley said last week.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., bypassed Grassley’s block by holding a roll call vote, which does not require unanimous consent. Schumer has refused to do the same for the 300 military nominees stalled by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., who has conducted an ongoing protest of the Pentagon’s abortion access policy. Holding individual votes on those nominees would set a dangerous precedent, Schumer said.
Bradsher said in a statement Tuesday that she was grateful for the opportunity to serve the nation’s “heroes” and promised to “do everything in my power to ensure that every veteran gets the world-class care and benefits they deserve.”
She will be tasked with running the day-to-day operations at VA and is expected to help supervise the roll-out of a $16 billion electronic health record modernization program that has been plagued by delays.
Bradsher transitioned to civilian life in 2013 and previously worked in Congress, the White House, the Defense Health Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. Her confirmation marks the first time the VA has Senate-confirmed leaders in each of its top five leadership positions since 2014.