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VA Chief of Staff Snyder to serve as interim department secretary

January 19, 2017 (Photo Credit: Charles Dharapak/AP)
The Veterans Affairs’ interim chief of staff is getting a temporary promotion to the department’s top job.   

Robert Snyder, who has overseen day-to-day operations at the department for a year and a day, was announced as the acting VA secretary effective Friday at noon, when President-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office.

VA officials announced the change late Thursday as current political appointees said their farewells at the department’s Washington, D.C., headquarters. Snyder is an Army veteran who spent 26 years in the service, including a stint on the faculty at West Point.

Snyder will serve in the role until the Senate confirms Dr. David Shulkin, Trump’s pick to replace outgoing VA Secretary Bob McDonald. Shulkin is the current VA under secretary for health and would be the first non-veteran ever to head the bureaucracy.

No date has been set by Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee leaders for Shulkin’s confirmation hearing, but incoming administration officials are pushing for one before the end of the month.

But even with a smooth hearing and quick Senate vote, it could be several weeks before Shulkin can officially take over.

Snyder took over as chief of staff Jan. 18, 2016, after the sudden departure of his predecessor, Rob Nabors. He has been directly involved with most of McDonald’s department reform efforts since then, serving as executive director of the MyVA Task Force.

He has worked in the department since 2009. Between his military career and joining VA, he worked as a consultant at Accenture Management.

Only a few government agencies are expected to have new leaders in place quickly after Trump’s inauguration this week.

Senators are expected to vote on retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis’ nomination to lead the Department of Defense and retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly nomination to lead the Department of Homeland Security within hours of the inauguration ceremony, but a timeline for other department confirmation votes has not been announced.

Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at
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