By Veterans AffairsJanuary 23, 2009
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Jan. 23, 2009) - Retired Army Gen. Eric K. Shinseki took the oath of office Wednesday as the nation's seventh secretary of Veterans Affairs, assuming the leadership of the Department of Veterans Affairs following Tuesday's confirmation by the Senate.
"The overriding challenge I am addressing from my first day in office is to make the Department of Veterans Affairs a 21st-century organization focused on the nation's veterans as its clients," Shinseki said.
Shinseki said he plans to develop a 2010 budget within his first 90 days that realizes the vision of President Obama to transform VA into an organization that is people-centric, results-driven and forward-looking.
Key issues on his agenda include smooth activation of an enhanced GI Bill education benefit that eligible veterans can begin using next fall, streamlining the disability claims system, leveraging information technology to accelerate and modernize services, and opening VA's health care system to veterans previously unable to enroll in it, while facilitating access for returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
Shinseki, a former Army chief of staff, takes the reins of a 284,000-employee organization delivering health care and financial benefits to millions of veterans and survivors under a $98 billion budget authorized this year through networks of regional benefits offices and health care facilities from coast to coast.
Born in 1942 on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, Shinseki graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in 1965. He served two combat tours and was wounded in action in Vietnam. He served with distinction in Europe, the Pacific and stateside, eventually becoming the Army's senior leader from June 1999 to June 2003.
Retired from military service in August 2003, Shinseki's military decorations include three Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts.
Shinseki succeeds Dr. James B. Peake as secretary of Veterans Affairs.