VA has its first female deputy secretary, an Iraq War combat veteran

Then-U.S. Army Major Tanya Bradsher checks personal mail to be delivered to South Korean troops in Iraq, at the United States Forces Korea Military Mail Terminal (MMT) at Kimpo airport, Jan. 27, 2005 in Seoul, South Korea. Bradsher was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as VA’s deputy secretary on Sept. 11, 2023. Photo credit Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

The U.S. Senate on Monday confirmed an Iraq combat veteran as the Department of Veterans Affairs deputy secretary.

Tanya Bradsher, 53, who served in the U.S. Army for 20 years before retiring as a lieutenant colonel, is the first woman deputy secretary of VA, the highest-ranking woman in VA history and the first woman of color to serve in the position.

“As deputy secretary, I promise to do everything in my power to ensure that every veteran gets the world-class care and benefits they deserve,” said Bradsher in a statement. “This is the honor of a lifetime, and I am forever grateful to President [Joe] Biden and [VA] Secretary [Denis]  McDonough for this opportunity to serve our nation’s heroes.”

The Senate vote to confirm Bradsher was 50-46. The vote came on Sept. 11 despite the objections of Sen. Chuck Grassley. In July, the Iowa Republican put a hold on her nomination over allegations Bradsher did not follow up with reports from VA whistleblowers that the agency exposed veterans’ sensitive personal and medical information.

“Ms. Bradsher, if confirmed, would be second in command at a deeply troubled agency,” Grassley said in a Sept. 7 statement. “Both the VA and Ms. Bradsher in her current role as chief of staff have shown repeated indifference to congressional oversight. Records show that she played a key role in the VA’s deficient response to my investigation of VA corruption that I launched in 2021. Another of my investigations has revealed that she also failed to secure sensitive veterans’ health information, PII, and whistleblower information in the VA’s correspondence system, VA Integrated Enterprise Workflow Solution, also called VIEWS, which is under her direct authority.”

Bradsher had been serving as VA’s chief of staff since March 2021. She is a fourth-generation veteran and Iraq combat veteran.

Tanya Bradsher Photo credit Department of Veterans Affairs

“At VA, it’s our job to fight like hell for veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors — and I know that Tanya Bradsher will do that every day as deputy secretary,” said McDonough. “Tanya is an incredible leader who has dedicated her life to fighting for this country and her fellow veterans — and under her leadership, I’m confident that VA will continue delivering more care and more benefits to more veterans than ever before.”

Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) called Bradsher’s record of serving the country both in and out of uniform impressive, especially in her recent role as VA Chief of Staff.

“Now more than ever, the Department needs a strong second-in-command to uphold its mission to deliver veterans the health care and benefits they have earned and having a confirmed leader in this role ensures we can hold VA accountable,” he said in a statement.

A VA statement noted that Bradsher helped lead VA through a historic expansion of veteran care and benefits while serving as chief of staff, including the implementation of the PACT Act.

Bradsher replaces Donald Remy as VA deputy secretary. Remy stepped down in March.  She is expected to be sworn in over the course of the next few days.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images