Thursday, December 20, 2007

General Peake sworn in as 6th Secretary of the DVA Sworn in As VA SecretaryNew Leader Pledges to Look to the Future WASHINGTON (December 20, 2007) - In a ceremony today Dr. James B. Peake,a combat veteran of the Vietnam War and former Army Surgeon General, was sworn in by President George W. Bush as the nation's sixth Secretary of Veterans Affairs."Dr. Peake takes office at a critical moment in the history of thisDepartment," said President Bush. "Our nation is at war - and many new veterans are leaving the battlefield and entering the VA system. This system provides our veterans with the finest care - but the bureaucracy can be difficult to navigate."Secretary Peake stressed his commitment to easing the transition of our current generation of returning, combat experienced men and women and of"the opportunity to look to the future of this newest generation of combat veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan - getting it right for them and for their families."Peake, who retired in 2004 as a three-star general, is a board-certified thoracic surgeon. His commands included the U.S. Army Medical Command,headquartered at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas; Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash.; the 44th Medical Brigade at Fort Bragg, N.C.; and the 18th Medical Command in Seoul, South Korea. Secretary Peake told those assembled, "You need to know that I believe deeply in the mission; and that I believe in you. I know quite a number of you already. I've seen the ethic, the caring, the compassion, and the technical skills."A native of St. Louis and graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Peake attended medical school after serving in Vietnam, where he earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart. As Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Peake assumes leadership of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the second largest cabinet department, with about 250,000 employees and a budget last year exceeding $82 billion. More than 5.5 million veterans are expected to receive care this year in VA's 153 hospitals and 900 clinics. VA also provides disability compensation and pensions to 3.5 million veterans and family members, and operates 125 national cemeteries.

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