Tester Statement on President Biden’s Picks to Fill Critical Positions to Support Veterans

President taps candidates to serve as VA Under Secretary for Health, VA Under Secretary for Benefits, and on the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission

U.S. Senator Tester, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, today released the following statement on the announcement that President Biden will nominate Dr. Shereef Elnahal to be the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Under Secretary for Health, Ray Jefferson to be the Department’s Under Secretary for Benefits, and eight nominees to the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission:

“Veterans and their families deserve a fully-staffed leadership team at the Department, which is why I’m glad the Biden Administration answered my call to fill these critical positions. As Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I look forward to reviewing these individuals’ qualifications to ensure they are each up to the task to deliver veterans their earned health care and benefits. I’ll also be taking a close look at the eight AIR Commission nominees chosen to play a critical role in reviewing VA’s future health care infrastructure needs.”

As Chairman, Tester has called for permanent, qualified leadership to head the nation’s largest integrated health care system. If confirmed, the Under Secretary for Health will lead VA’s efforts in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, improving mental health care for all veterans, and supporting women and minority veterans. The Under Secretary for Benefits will be tasked with tackling the claims backlog, ensuring the seamless delivery of timely benefits for all veterans including those suffering from toxic exposures, and administering education benefits for transitioning veterans.

Dr. Shereef Elnahal is a physician who has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey since 2019. Prior to this role, Elnahal served as New Jersey’s 21st Health Commissioner. He also served as Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Quality, Safety, and Value at VA from 2016 through 2018.

Ray Jefferson is the President of Jefferson Group, a global leadership development consultancy, as well as the Chair and Co-Founder of the Service Academies Global Summit. Earlier in his career, Jefferson served as a White House Fellow and worked as a Special Assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. In 2009, Jefferson was the Senate-confirmed, Assistant Secretary for Veterans’ Employment and Training at the U.S. Department of Labor. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1988 and served as an Army Officer with the infantry, Rangers, and Special Forces.

If confirmed, President Biden’s AIR Commission nominees will be tasked with reviewing VA’s recommendations for the modernization of veterans’ medical facilities across the country, holding public hearings, and reporting their conclusions to the President as required under the VA MISSION Act.