Embattled VA head steps down

U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary James Nicholson said on Tuesday he would step down, leaving an agency criticized for the care provided to veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nicholson, whose resignation is effective no later than October 1, said he wanted to return to the private sector.

“This coming February, I turn 70 years old, and I feel it is time for me to get back into business, while I still can,” he said in a prepared statement.

Nicholson was sworn in on February 1, 2005. He has also served in the Bush administration as U.S. ambassador to the Vatican and was a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

The Veterans Affairs Department (VA) and Pentagon have faced increasing criticism this year for the quality and level of care received by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Reports have shown that the rise in post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury among returning troops has not been met with more resources to deal with mental health problems.

Some critics also say the Veterans Affairs Department is still unprepared and lacks the budget to care for a coming wave of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who will draw on veterans care benefits when they leave the military.

Also, during Nicholson’s tenure, personal information on 26.5 million U.S. veterans was stolen from an agency employee who took the data home without authorization. That laptop was later recovered.

“It is clear that Secretary Nicholson is leaving the VA worse off than he found it,” said Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, a Democrat running for president.

“He oversaw one of the most tumultuous periods in recent VA history, including billion-dollar budget shortfalls, ongoing cuts in services to certain groups of veterans, and the continuation of a dysfunctional bureaucracy that keeps many veterans from getting the disability benefits they deserve.”

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Nicholson could have served longer had he wanted to.

“He certainly could have served longer if he had so desired,” Snow said.

“There’s no back story here. He called up, said he wanted to leave and move on, and the president accepted his resignation.”

(Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria)


  1. SEAL

    Nicholson was sworn in on February 1, 2005. He has also served in the Bush administration as U.S. ambassador to the Vatican and was a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

    Well now, those certainly are sterling credentials for a VA administrator to have. Much better than supervising horse shows.

    What really gets me is that Bush doesn’t give a damn that when he puts totally unqualified people in charge of something it will come back to bite him in the ass. Gonzales is a complete embarassment to him but he doesn’t care because Gonzo does what Bush wants him to do, legal or not. Certoff dopped the ball during Katrina. He is the man responsible for homeland security. But he laid that one off on “heck of a job Brownie” even after Brown proved he had made many futile attempts to contact him. The way they had restructured, Brown did not have the authority to order the things needed. Maybe he didn’t know what to do but he should have been able to contact those who make the decisions.

    Bush just doesn’t care what people think. that is the mentality of a dictator. The only reason he took the responsibility for Katrina was because it was a necessary political move and took the heat off of Certoff who, like Gonzo does exactly what Bush wants. He installs these people in all the administrative jobs so that he can be the dictator. He wasn’t kidding when he said he was the “decider.” He decides everything and his stooges do the bidding. That is one way to create a dictatorship.

  2. Joe Lawrence

    Nothing to see here. Just move along, folks.

    Has there been, ever, a more aptly named presidential press secretary than Tony Snow?

    The truth is that, since the day the SCOTUS weaseled Cheneybush into power, the administration has been rotting from the head down, while imagining they would ultimately escape blame by serving up one sacrificial lamb after another. One has only to pay the very slightest attention to the SWORN TESTIMONY of past Surgeon Generals to see the awesome scope of the mendacity.

  3. Sandra Price

    I was very disappointed when Jim Nicholson headed up the Republican National Committee. He did nothing for the group except to discuss the prohibitions against sin. The man was a bore and when he was appointed to the Vet’s issues, I yawned….when Walter Reed mess appeared I just knew Jim was in charge. None of these Republicans have the ability to lead anything. Where does Bush get these men who have failed in every possible leadership role given to them. Now we have to worry where Jim will go next.