House Republican leaders on Wednesday named Illinois Rep. Mike Bost as their top veterans policy voice for the next congressional session, tapping him to replace retiring Tennessee Rep. Phil Roe as ranking member on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Bost, 59, was selected over Michigan Rep. Jack Bergman to lead minority party work on the committee. He is a Marine Corps veteran who has been in Congress since 2016, and currently serves as the ranking member on the committee’s panel on disability assistance and memorial affairs.

Although Democrats will continue to control the House next session, the committee’s ranking member leadership post is viewed within the veterans community as a key role in the next Congress, both because of its influence in supporting new policy legislation and its potential role as key critic of the incoming Democratic presidential administration’s veterans policies.

In a statement, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said that Bost is “steadfastly committed to service and getting results, and will be a strong leader for our veterans.”

In an interview with Military Times ahead of Wednesday’s vote, Bost said he is hopeful the committee will be able to focus on bipartisan reforms for the Department of Veterans Affairs, but also warned that he won’t be “bullied into bipartisanship” by Democrats on issues where there is disagreement.

“Recently we have seen quite a bit of partisanship [on the committee], and that is a little bit frustrating,” he said. I hope that we can move completely away from that focus on the issues because this isn’t about whether you’re Republican or Democrat, this is about the needs of those veterans who have served our country.”

Bost says his priorities will center on toxic exposure issues (particularly support for younger veterans exposed to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan), continued suicide prevention efforts, and revamping transition programs for troops leaving the military for civilian life.

He also said he brings personal experience to the disability claims process, having been denied benefits multiple times in the past for hearing loss suffered while he was in the military.

“So I have the passion to fight for our veterans, so that they’re not denied benefits that are due them on technicalities,” he said. “That doesn’t mean I want to give things away for nothing. But if somebody is having problems, that’s why we have those services available.”

Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., is expected to return as the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman next session. Leadership of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee — chairman Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, and ranking member Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. — are also expected to remain unchanged heading into next year.

The new Congress is scheduled to be seated on Jan. 3.

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.

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