Murray to Hold Peake Accountable at the VA

Dec 12 2007

Senator will vote to confirm, but demands improvement, independence

(Washington D.C.) – In advance of tomorrow's Senate Veterans Affairs (VA) committee vote on the confirmation of General James Peake to be Secretary of VA, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) released the following statement:

"For years now, there has been a leadership vacuum at the head of the VA in Washington, D.C. and our nation's veterans have paid the price.  It's time to take the "business as usual" sign off the front door of the VA. We need a secretary who is willing to roll up his sleeves and get to work.  

"I will support General Peake's nomination to head the VA.  I expect him to understand the challenges that face the agency and know that true leadership will require independent advocacy.  He has pledged to stand up for the needs of veterans above the political needs of the White House.  And he promised to work to break down the stigma over mental health care. 

"I believe General Peake's heart is in the right place, but this job will take more than just promises.  He needs to work everyday to overcome the bureaucratic ineptitude, backlog of claims, wait times, and other challenges that our veterans face every day. 

"While we shouldn't dwell on the mistakes of the past, we must learn from them and I expect General Peake to learn from his predecessors' failures.  If he fails to change the direction of this agency, he will have to answer for it.  But I also pledge to work with him to get this right and put our veterans first. 

"We have a true opportunity to change course at the VA, but the clock is ticking.  With our troops fighting overseas and older veterans accessing the VA in greater numbers, we are facing unprecedented challenges.  Business as usual is not an option, and Congress and our veterans will be counting on General Peake to get it right."