Stars & Stripes Veterans Reporter Nikki Wentling and Leo Shane III, deputy editor of Military Times, discuss Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie’s recent hearing on Capitol Hill, and questions that remain to be answered about the department.
During a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing last week, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie called his agency a “non-partisan institution.” Wilkie also said that the department’s recent controversies are a non-issue and that after a turbulent few years, the agency is much calmer. Nikki Wentling, Veterans Reporter at Stars & Stripes, covered that hearing, and said that some priorities at VA require congressional cooperation. “There are high stakes right now. Congress passed some major veterans bills over the past several months that Wilkie now has this huge task of implementing. I think that it’s key that everyone should be on the same page to get those done,” said Wentling. Leo Shane III, Deputy Editor of Military Times, said that while Wilkie says everything is doing better, some agency issues are still unanswered. “There’s still a lot of questions over how much control he has at the department, who’s pulling the strings? These issues of the ‘Shadow VA’ down at Mar-a-Lago… it’s going to be some time before the rest of us are going to clear that VA has calmed down,” said Shane. “The veteran’s groups like [Wilkie], they do have some faith in him, and they do feel like after the turmoil of this past year that he can bring that [calm.]”