white-house-names-latest-pick-to-lead-veterans-benefits-operations

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Joshua Jacobs, the White House’s nominee to serve as under secretary for benefits at the Department of Veterans Affairs, testifies at a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on Dec. 7, 2022. (Courtesy of House Veterans’ Affairs)

The Department of Veterans Affairs is poised to have all of its top leadership posts filled for the first time in more than six years following the White House’s Monday evening nomination of a new under secretary for benefits.

Administration officials announced the selection of Joshua Jacobs, currently a senior adviser at Veterans Affairs, to serve as the top benefits official in the department after a six-month review of potential candidates by a special commission. Jacobs’ nomination now goes to the Senate, where lawmakers are expected to review his credentials during the next few months.

Jacobs has been performing the duties of under secretary for benefits for the department since July 2022. His nomination is not expected to be seen as controversial, and could be fast-tracked by the Democratic-controlled Senate.

But the nomination is noteworthy because the top benefits post has been without a Senate-confirmed leader for almost two years.

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In March 2022, White House officials nominated Ray Jefferson to fill that role, but his candidacy was undermined by concerns surrounding his past work leading the Veterans Employment and Training Service during President Barack Obama’s administration.

The post is one of the five most senior positions within the VA. The department hasn’t had all five of those occupied by Senate-confirmed officials since early 2017, before the start of President Donald Trump’s term in office.

That’s mostly due to a long absence of a confirmed under secretary for health. After numerous failed attempts to find a nominee over a five-year span, the Senate in summer 2022 confirmed Dr. Shereef Elnahal into that post.

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The under secretary for benefits oversees nonmedical veterans benefits issues, delivering about $135 billion in services and benefits annually. That work includes disability compensation benefits to nearly 6 million veterans and involves supervising more than 25,000 benefits employees.

Prior to joining the department in 2021 (his second stint at VA), Jacobs was a senior associate at Booz Allen Hamilton. He also previously worked as deputy staff director for the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

In a statement, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee ranking member Mark Takano, D-California, praised the nomination.

“In his current role, Joshua Jacobs has already begun implementation of several significant provisions of my ‘Honoring our PACT’ Act, among other programs,” he said. “If confirmed by the Senate, I look forward to working with Mr. Jacobs and the Veterans Benefits Administration to protect funding and preserve the programs that will help veterans lead meaningful lives.”

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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