Army veteran Tanya Bradsher will serve as the Department of Veterans Affairs first confirmed female deputy secretary after a 50-46 Senate vote on Tuesday finalized her nomination.
Bradsher, 53, has served as chief of staff to VA Secretary Denis McDonough since March 2021. The Iraq war veteran, who is Black, is also the first woman of color to ever hold the VA leadership post.
Tuesday’s vote came almost two months after Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, objected to her nomination over concerns that she failed to protect personal information of VA whistleblowers during her duties as department chief of staff. The move was another in a long series of confirmation blockades by Republican lawmakers for defense and veterans posts this year.
But Senate Democratic leaders worked around Grassley’s opposition to advance Bradsher’s nomination. She is expected to be sworn into the post in the next few days.
“It is clear that she is qualified for the job and ready to hit the ground running to serve our nation’s veterans,” Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont., said in a floor speech Monday night.
“VA has a lot of work on its plate, from rolling out the electronic health record modernization program to working with the defense department to improve the transition process for service members leaving the military, and these are challenges that VA’s number-two official is directly tasked with.”
Bradsher replaces Donald Remy, who stepped down from the post in March. Her confirmation puts Senate-approved leaders at each of VA’s five top leadership posts for the first time since May 2014.
Bradsher served in the Army for 20 years before retiring in 2003 as a lieutenant colonel, and has held a variety of roles in the Defense Department, Department of Homeland Security and White House.
She received largely positive reviews from members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee for her work as VA chief of staff during her confirmation hearing in May.
Grassley’s concerns centered on Bradsher’s oversight responsibilities for VA’s Integrated Enterprise Workflow Solution (VIEWS) system, which tracks all department correspondence.
Critics of the system have said that personal information — including the names and accusations of whistleblowers — can be accessed by potential wrongdoers through flaws in the system. Grassley said investigations and fixes promised by VA leadership are long overdue, and he accused Bradsher and others at the department of “stonewalling my investigations into VA corruption.”
In a statement ahead of the vote, Grassley said that none of the issues have been adequately addressed since he raised his objections and that he believes Bradsher is “unqualified to lead at the VA.”
Bradsher’s nomination is the second VA leadership post to be temporarily blocked by Grassley this year. In March, the senator opposed the nomination of Under Secretary of Benefits nominee Josh Jacobs over concerns over other unresolved whistleblower allegations leveled against the department.
Jacobs was approved by a 74-25 vote after an extra six-week wait.
More than 300 senior Defense Department promotions and appointments have been stalled since February by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., over his objections to the military’s abortion access policies. Department leaders and Senate Democrats have accused him of undermining national security with those holds.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.