Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Donald Remy will step down from his post on April 1, leaving another leadership void at the department.

Remy has held the post since he was confirmed by the Senate in July 2021 by a 91-8 vote. The former National Collegiate Athletic Association executive and Army veteran has led a series of reforms and initiatives as the department’s second-highest ranking official, most notably the embattled electronic health record modernization project.

Guy Kiyokawa, VA’s assistant secretary for enterprise integration, will serve as acting deputy secretary after Remy’s departure. VA officials said they are working now to identify potential candidates to permanently replace Remy.

“There is no greater mission than serving our nation’s veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors,” Remy said in a statement. “It has been the honor of a lifetime to do that here at VA.”

Remy did not give a reason for his departure. In a message to VA employees, he expressed optimism that improvements implemented over the last two years have put the department on a path to better serving veterans.

In particular, he cited the expansion of telehealth services, new benefits for military toxic exposure injuries, improving “inclusion” at VA and progress on the health records project.

“I am confident that VA is on the path to delivering a modern electronic health record that is usable, reliable, and enhances veteran outcomes,” he wrote. “I will be celebrating you as you make these goals a reality for VA and for those we serve.”

The 10-year, $16-billion health records modernization has come under intense scrutiny in recent months as the department has repeatedly delayed deployment of the system to new sites amid problems with staff training and system reliability.

Remy was tasked with overseeing the work from his first day on the job. VA leaders have said they hope to resume deployments later this summer, but a growing number of lawmakers have questioned if the project will ever yield the promised results.

Last week, Dr. Terry Adirim — director of VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization Integration Office — stepped down from that role to “pursue other opportunities” outside the department, adding to the uncertainty surrounding the records work.

In a statement, VA Secretary Denis McDonough called Remy “a great leader, a true friend, and a steadfast public servant who has fought like hell every day for our nation’s veterans.”

He also praised Kiyokawa as the right person to help oversee Remy’s work while a replacement candidate is found.

Kiyokawa, a former Army Medical Service Corps officer, now handles issues of strategic planning, performance, and risk management within the department.

Remy’s departure continues VA’s streak of openings among its top leadership posts. All five of its most senior offices have not been filled by Senate-confirmed officials since December 2016.

Currently, the only one of the five that is open is the under secretary for benefits post. Acting administrator Joshua Jacobs has been nominated to fill that role and already had his confirmation hearing, and could potentially have his job finalized before Remy’s departure.

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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