On Senate Floor, Tester Slams Political Hold on Bipartisan Nominee Tapped to Lead Veterans Health Administration

Chairman underscored critical need for permanent VA health care leadership for veterans

In a speech on the Senate floor today, Chairman Jon Tester of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee urged his colleagues to put aside partisan politics and confirm Dr. Shereef Elnahal, the pending nominee to be the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Under Secretary for Health, following a hold on his confirmation.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs needs a steady hand to guide the Veterans Health Administration, the nation’s largest, integrated health care system that delivers quality and timely care to veterans—if there is a leader,” said Chairman Tester. “I rise today because Dr. Shereef Elnahal is that person.”

Tester continued, “If the people of this body want to help veterans, holding this nominee is not the way to help veterans. And I’ll tell you what, you’re actually doing a disservice to veterans and their families by playing political games and preventing permanent health care leadership at VA, which is so critically important. In the past, this body has been able to rise above politics to install qualified individuals at VA responsible for getting vets the health care benefits they need and earned. Today, we must do that again.”

Earlier this month, Tester led the Committee in unanimously advancing President Biden’s pick to lead the Veterans Health Administration. Once confirmed, Elnahal will oversee the health care system—providing care to more than nine million veterans and employing more than 347,000 health care workers.

Dr. Shereef Elnahal is a physician who most recently served as President and Chief Executive Officer of University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey from 2019 through 2022. 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. He earned a B.A. from Johns Hopkins University, and went to Harvard Business School and Harvard Medical School, graduating from both in 2012.