Senate confirms retired colonel as Shulkin’s No. 2 at the VA


By NIKKI WENTLING | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 3, 2017

WASHINGTON – In one of the Senate’s last moves before a recess, senators on Thursday confirmed six nominees to the Department of Veterans Affairs, including a new deputy secretary.

Tom Bowman, a retired Marine Corps colonel and staff director for the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, will take the No. 2 spot in the department, under VA Secretary David Shulkin. Bowman will be responsible for daily operations of the 350,000-employee agency, the second-largest in the federal government.

Scott Blackburn had been holding the position in an interim role since February.

Before working in Congress, Bowman held leadership positions at the VA, including chief of staff. He was also a senior adviser to the director of VA health care in Florida and the Caribbean. He earned degrees from the University of Texas and Western New England College.

Senators on Thursday also confirmed Brooks Tucker to be the assistant VA secretary of congressional and legislative affairs. Tucker worked on President Donald Trump’s transition team and is now a senior adviser to Shulkin. He was previously a senior policy adviser to Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. He’s a retired lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps.

James Byrne was confirmed as VA’s general counsel. He most recently worked as general counsel and the lead cyber and counterintelligence attorney at Lockheed Martin.

Michael Allen, Amanda Meredith and Joseph Toth were confirmed to be judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, which hears cases from veterans who think their claims for VA benefits were denied unjustly.

Allen was a law professor and director of the Veterans Law Institute at Stetson University in Gulfport, Florida. Meredith was the deputy staff director and general counsel for the Senate veterans committee and Toth served as a judge advocate in the Navy. In 2011, Toth partnered with prosecutors in Afghanistan to establish rule of law in the district where the Taliban was formed.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, called them “exceptional nominees” in a statement released Thursday.

“I have no doubt they will do great work on behalf of our nation’s veterans,” he said.

Twitter: @nikkiwentling

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