Republican House leaders on Thursday tapped four-term Tennessee Rep. Phil Roe to lead the chamber's Veterans' Affairs Committee next session, putting the former Army doctor in charge of their continued VA reform efforts.

Roe's appointment to the post was expected following the retirement of Florida Rep. Jeff Miller, who has chaired the committee for the last six years. In a statement, he praised Miller's leadership but said significant work still lies ahead for the oversight panel.

"This is not a responsibility I will take lightly," he said. "With scandal after scandal, it has become clear there's no federal agency more in need of reform than the VA.

"I am excited by the opportunity to advance Republican solutions aimed at improving veterans' care. There's a lot of work to be done -- from considering the Commission on Care recommendations and reauthorizing the Choice program to ensuring veterans have timely access to the benefits they've earned -- and I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work."

Roe has served on the committee since entering Congress in 2009, and has been a frequent critic of VA leadership in recent years, though much less bombastic than colleagues infuriated by what they see as bureaucratic inaction.

He served two years in the Army in the early 1970s with the 2nd Infantry Division, 2nd Medical Battalion. That included a deployment to South Korea for medical missions at an evacuation hospital there.

The 71-year-old Republican spent 31 years working as an obstetrics and gynecology specialist in Tennessee, boasting that he delivered "close to 5,000 babies." That work also included training at the VA hospital in Memphis and working in consultation with VA physicians for some of his private practice patients.

Miller praised Roe’s selection as the right decision to continue the committee’s work on reforming the department.

House Democrats still have not finalized who will serve beside Roe as ranking member on the committee. Current ranking member Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., lost her re-election bid earlier this year. Acting ranking member Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., and Rep. Tim Walz., D-Minn., have both been lobbying colleagues in recent weeks to replace her.

Earlier this month, Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester took over as ranking member on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. That makes the panel’s chairman, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., the only returning congressional VA leader next year.

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

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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