Senate Confirms Biden’s Pick for VA Deputy Secretary Amid GOP Criticism

Members of the U.S. Senate confirmed Tanya Bradsher for deputy secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on Tuesday over the objections of Republicans.

As chief of staff at the department, Ms. Bradsher oversaw the VA Integrated Enterprise Workflow Solution Case and Correspondence Management system, or VIEWS CCM.

An investigation led by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) found that the system had exposed veterans’ health and other sensitive information to thousands of unauthorized employees.

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Noting this, Mr. Grassley had urged his fellow senators to reject Ms. Bradsher’s nomination, charging that she had provided “misleading and often contradictory” testimony on the matter before Congress.

“If confirmed, Ms. Bradsher would be in charge of the VA’s effort to modernize veterans’ electronic health records,” the senator said Sept. 7 on the Senate floor. “This involves the health care records of millions of veterans, which obviously contain huge amounts of sensitive information.

“Ms. Bradsher’s failures on privacy issues as chief of staff and her lack of transparency to the Veterans Affairs Committee show that we can’t trust her to secure this sensitive information or to take the lead and address agency failures, of which VA has many,” he continued.

Ultimately, half of the Senate disagreed, confirming President Joe Biden’s pick in a 50–46 vote.

Candor in Question

Ms. Bradsher is a combat veteran who served 20 years in the U.S. Army. She also previously served as the assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Homeland Security and on the White House National Security Council during the Obama and Biden administrations.

In advancing Ms. Bradsher’s nomination to the full Senate in July, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) expressed confidence in her leadership.

“The department needs a steady, strong hand to tackle challenges and uphold its important mission to those who fought for our freedoms,” Mr. Tester said in a July 13 statement. “Tanya Bradsher’s background in both military and civilian service demonstrates that she’s well-qualified to serve as VA’s second-in-command, and if confirmed, I look forward to holding her accountable in delivering for our nation’s veterans and their families.”

Mr. Grassley, however, described the committee’s approval of Ms. Bradsher as a “rubber stamp” supported by an “arguably obstructive” VA memo that failed to mention the department’s own findings of privacy flaws in the VIEWS system.

The internal review was ordered by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) in August 2022 following whistleblowers’ reports of privacy flaws in the VIEWS system. The subsequent report, drafted by the VA Office of Information Technology, was not provided to the OSC until recently and has yet to be made public. However, according to Mr. Grassley, the review found that more than 100 additional employees had improper access to sensitive data in the system than the VA initially represented.

“And the report revealed that the VA knew since at least July 2019 that these data privacy issues existed for a massive number of cases that were improperly marked ‘not sensitive’—a full three years before whistleblowers reached out to Ms. Bradsher’s office last July,” he said.

Yet Ms. Bradsher failed to acknowledge those issues in her testimony before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, the senator added. “Nor, apparently, did she lift a finger to take care of these issues in the 16 months she was in office before the whistleblowers spoke out to her deputy last year.”

The report, Mr. Grassley said, also “calls Ms. Bradsher’s candor into question,” given that she defended the VIEWS system’s protections for sensitive information and said the department has an audit policy to ensure data is accessed appropriately—a policy that the report revealed does not exist.

“It looks like Ms. Bradsher has some explaining to do,” he said.

The Epoch Times has contacted the Department of Veterans Affairs for comment.

Impeachment Inquiry

Ms. Bradsher’s confirmation comes amid a busy week on Capitol Hill.

While both chambers worked to pass all 12 appropriations bills for fiscal year 2024 before the Sept. 30 deadline, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced the opening of a formal impeachment inquiry into President Biden.

“House Republicans have uncovered serious allegations into President Biden’s conduct. Taken together, these allegations paint a picture of a culture of corruption,” Mr. McCarthy said, referencing the House Oversight and Accountability Committee’s probe of the Biden family’s foreign business dealings.

Through its investigation, the committee found that at least nine of the president’s family members and some of their business associates had at least $20 million in payments from foreign entities. The payments, which started during President Biden’s time as vice president, were funneled through numerous shell companies.

Another finding was that the president had been accused of involvement in a bribery scheme that resulted in the firing of Viktor Shokin, a Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating an energy firm for which first son Hunter Biden sat on the board of directors.

“These are allegations of abuse of power, obstruction, and corruption, and they warrant further investigation by the House of Representatives,” the speaker said. “That’s why today, I am directing our House committee to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.”

White House spokesman for oversight and investigations Ian Sams called the move “extreme politics at its worst.”

The investigation will be spearheaded by House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (R-Mo.), and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

“We will go wherever the evidence takes us,” Mr. McCarthy added.

Responding to the news in an X post, Mr. Sams said the inquiry was baseless.

“House Republicans have been investigating the President for 9 months, and they’ve turned up no evidence of wrongdoing,” Mr. Sams wrote. “His own GOP members have said so. He vowed to hold a vote to open impeachment, now he flip-flopped because he doesn’t have support. Extreme politics at its worst.”

Lawrence Wilson contributed to this report.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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