Pamela Powers tapped to perform duties as VA’s No.2

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President Trump has selected Pamela Powers to perform the duties of the deputy secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs — the highest accountable official on the department’s massive electronic health record modernization program.

Powers will be dual-hatted by continuing in her role as chief of staff while preforming the duties of deputy secretary, according to a news release from the VA. She assumed the role on April 2. But it remains unclear if Trump will nominate her to take on the position in a permanent capacity, which would require Senate confirmation.

The former No. 2 at VA, James Byrne, was fired in February because he did not “gel” with other leadership, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said. Byrne previously was the top authority on the VA’s EHR modernization program, a role that Wilkie took over for the last three months while the position was empty.

“Pam has quarterbacked VA’s historic transformation for the better part of the last two years,” said Wilkie in a statement. “Her deep experience and decisive leadership style will yield tremendous benefits for Veterans and the department during this important time.”

Powers has nearly 30 years of combined service in the Air Force and Department of Defense, with experience in executive-level management, according to the VA news release. Powers’ experience appears to be mostly in readiness, personnel management and legislative affairs.

By law, the deputy secretary position oversees spending on the massive $16 billion EHR program.

Some of the EHR project activities recently were paused due to the VA’s coronavirus pandemic response efforts. Deployment of the system is on hold while clinicians focus on treating COVID-19 patients. The project’s back-end development continues, however, according to a letter from Wilkie.

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Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), electronic health records (EHRs), IT Modernization, James Byrne, Robert Wilkie