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Under his Leadership, VA Makes Strides in Health Care and IT Modernization
WASHINGTON -- Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Jim Nicholson announced today he has tendered his resignation to President George W. Bush, effective no later than October 1, 2007.
Under Nicholson’s leadership, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) continued its evolution as a leader in health care innovations, medical research, education services, home loan and other benefits to veterans. He transformed the VA health care system to meet the unique medical requirements of the returning combatants from Iraq and Afghanistan.
In his letter of resignation, Nicholson praised and thanked the President for the honor of serving him and our Nation’s veterans in this key post at such a “critical time in our nation’s global war on terror.”
“The VA is a dynamic organization dedicated to serving our nation’s finest citizens – our veterans,” Nicholson said. “It has been an honor and privilege to lead the VA during this historic time for our men and women who have worn the uniform. We have accomplished so much and the VA is always striving to improve our services to veterans.”
Nicholson said he wants to return to the private sector. “This coming February, I turn 70 years old, and I feel it is time for me to get back into business, while I still can.” He said he has no definite plans at this time.
He also addressed an assembled group of WashingtonVA employees and those watching around the country on VA’s closed-circuit television. In his message to employees, Nicholson told them how privileged he felt to have worked with them in fulfilling our nation’s promises and obligations to its veterans.
“VA has come a long way in meeting the growing needs and expectations of our veterans and you deserve the credit,” Nicholson said.
Nicholson, a Vietnam Veteran, was sworn in as Secretary of Veterans Affairs on February 1, 2005.
During Secretary Nicholson’s tenure at the Department of Veterans Affairs:
Directed each of our veterans of the global war on terror who come to the VA for any kind of care to be carefully screened for brain damage (TBI) and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Hired 100 new Outreach Coordinators to provide services to returning OIF/OEF veterans. The new coordinators are located in Vet Centers throughout the country especially near our military processing stations.
Created a new Advisory Committee on OIF/OEF Veterans and their families to advise him on ways to improve programs serving OIF/OEF veterans.
Directed the Veterans Benefits Administration to give priority to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) veterans in its compensation and pension claim system.
Launched a major information technology transformation in the VA with the way it uses and safeguards personal and health information of veterans.
Created a new Office of Operations, Security, and Preparedness to deal with emergency planning and security.
Initiated the overhaul of the VA’s vast contracting and acquisitions systems.
Created a blue ribbon Genomic Research Advisory Committee to use the VA’s expansive medical data holdings to advance the science of predictive medicine.
Commenced a major campaign to reduce the high rate of diabetes in veterans.
Launched a national effort in the Veterans Health Administration to eradicate staph infections in VA hospitals.
Approved 82 new Community-Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOC) to bring VA top notch care closer to the veterans who have earned it.
Created a new multi-campus NursingAcademy through partnership with the nursing schools throughout the country to help address a shortage of nurses within the VA and nationwide.
Directed the hiring of suicide prevention counselors at each of VA’s 153 facilities to strengthen one of the nation’s largest mental health programs. He also established a 24-hour national suicide prevention hotline that will be operational by the end of July 2007.
Hired 100 new Patient Care Advocates to help severely injured veterans and their families manage VA’s system for health care and financial benefits.
Led the President’s recent Task Force on Returning Global War on Terror Heroes to improve the delivery of federal services and benefits to Global War on Terror service members and veterans.
“This is a very big Government agency that, among many other things, sees over 1 million patients a week in its health care system, and is doing a world class job,” Nicholson said. “The American people can feel proud about the way we are treating our veterans. The President and the Congress have been very supportive and for that I am grateful as well.”
Nicholson thanked the President, “he has given me terrific opportunities to serve my country and under his strong and supportive leadership, it has been a real privilege.”
Nicholson left the private business world over 10 years, where he ran a successful residential development and construction company. He was elected Chairman of the Republican National Committee in January 1997. Immediately prior to becoming Secretary, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.