Heritage Foundation Welcomes Former VA Secretary Robert L. Wilkie As Visiting Fellow

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Heritage Foundation Welcomes Former VA Secretary Robert L. Wilkie As Visiting Fellow

May 3, 2021 2 min read

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie speaks during a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on November 11, 2018 in Arlington, Virginia.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie speaks during a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on November 11, 2018 in Arlington, Virginia. Al Drago / Stringer / Getty Images

WASHINGTON – The Heritage Foundation announced today that Robert L. Wilkie, former secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, is joining Heritage as a visiting fellow in the organization’s esteemed Center for National Defense, part of the Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy.

As a visiting fellow with the center, Wilkie will provide vital research and analysis on improving veterans programs, promoting military and national service, and improving defense personnel programs.

Wilkie was confirmed as VA secretary by the U.S. Senate on July 23, 2018, and served in the position until January 2021. Prior to his confirmation, he served as under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness under Defense Secretary James Mattis. In this role, he was the DOD’s principal adviser on total force management issues, including readiness, National Guard and Reserve component affairs, health affairs, training, personnel requirements, and quality of life for military families, to name just a few.

In his time as VA secretary, Wilkie helped improve the agency’s performance addressing the needs of America’s approximately 9.5 million veterans. Trust in VA health care outpatient services rose to 90% among veterans during his tenure as secretary. Wilkie also oversaw implementation of the MISSION Act, which provided more veterans access to care and services in their communities. He also helped modernize VA’s health record system and concentrated attention on suicide prevention, opioid addiction, and educational opportunities for veterans.

“We are truly fortunate to have someone of Secretary Wilkie’s stature and experience joining our first-class defense team,” said Heritage President Kay C. James. “Robert has served our country tirelessly in numerous roles for many years, and I am excited for the wisdom and perspective he will bring in helping us address the challenges faced by those who have served in our armed forces. Helping improve the lives of veterans across this country was a driving passion for Robert while leading the VA, and I know it continues to be so today.”

The son of an Army artillery commander, Wilkie is also a colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. Before joining the Air Force, he served in the U.S. Navy Reserve with the Joint Forces Intelligence Command, Naval Special Warfare Group Two, and the Office of Naval Intelligence. Secretary Wilkie served in the staff of the National Security Council and assistant secretary of defense in the George W. Bush administration. He also has extensive experience working on Capitol Hill, including service as senior adviser to Sen. Thom Tillis, and counsel and adviser on international security affairs to former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.

“I am grateful to The Heritage Foundation for this opportunity to continue the important work I started at the Department of Veterans Affairs,” said Wilkie. “During my tenure as VA secretary, I often looked to Heritage for principled advice and guidance. We now have an opportunity to build on the successes of the Trump administration and make sure we continue to improve care for veterans and address the needs of our military.”

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