Bush Nominating Retired Army General Peake to Head Veterans Affairs

By: By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer
By: By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush will nominate retired Army general James Peake on Tuesday to direct the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is strained by the influx of wounded troops returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Peake, 63, is a physician and former lieutenant general who spent 40 years in military medicine and was decorated for his service in Vietnam.

He retired from the Army in 2004 after being lead commander in several medical posts, including four years as the U.S. Army surgeon general.

Bush will make his announcement at 10:05 a.m. Pacific Time, according to administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement.

The president will be joined in the Roosevelt Room with Peake, who is now chief medical director and chief operating officer of QTC Management Inc., which provides government-outsourced occupational health and injury and disability examination services.

Former Veterans Affairs Secretary James Nicholson stepped down Oct. 1. Gordon Mansfield, the VA's deputy secretary has been serving as acting secretary.

If confirmed by the Senate, Peake would lead the government's second-largest agency with 235,000 employees in the waning months of the Bush administration.

The nomination comes as the administration and Congress struggle to find clear answers to some of the worst problems afflicting wounded warriors, such as adequate mental health treatment and timely payment of disability benefits, after disclosures emerged in February of shoddy outpatient treatment at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Peake, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, was awarded the silver star and purple heart for his service in Vietnam as a platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division. He was wounded twice in battle and received his acceptance letter to Cornell University Medical College while in the hospital recovering from injury.

From 2000 to 2004, Peake was surgeon general of the U.S. Army, where he commanded 50,000 medical personnel and 187 army medical facilities across the world. He also was commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School.

From 2004 to 2006, Peake was executive vice president and chief operating officer of Project HOPE, a nonprofit international health foundation. While at HOPE, he helped organize civilian volunteers aboard the Navy hospital ship Mercy as it responded to the tsunami in Indonesia and aboard the hospital ship Comfort which responded to Hurricane Katrina.

Peake is the son of a medical services officer and Army nurse.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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