Trump's VA Secretary Joins Conservative Think Tank The Heritage Foundation

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Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie on Capitol Hill.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, shown on Capitol Hill on March 27, 2019. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Former Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie is joining the Heritage Foundation as a visiting fellow, the conservative think tank announced Monday.

He will provide "vital research and analysis on improving veterans programs, promoting military and national service, and improving defense personnel programs," Heritage said in its announcement.

"I am grateful to The Heritage Foundation for this opportunity to continue the important work I started at the Department of Veterans Affairs," Wilkie said in a statement. "During my tenure as VA secretary, I often looked to Heritage for principled advice and guidance."

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Wilkie oversaw the VA at a critical time as it dramatically expanded community care following passage of the Mission Act and during the pandemic.

He left the department largely in disgrace when President Joe Biden took office, as Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and virtually all major veterans groups called for his resignation after a damning VA inspector general report on his handling of a congressional aide's sexual assault allegation.

The IG investigation found that Wilkie had attempted to discredit Andrea Goldstein, a House Veterans Affairs Committee staffer and an officer in the Navy Reserve, after she alleged in September 2019 that she had been sexually assaulted by a man at a VA hospital in Washington, D.C.

"The tone set by Secretary Wilkie was at minimum unprofessional and at worst provided the basis for senior officials to put out information to national reporters to question the credibility and background of the veteran who filed the sexual assault complaint," Inspector General Michael Missal concluded in his report.

The Heritage Foundation is a critical organization for conservative politics in D.C. It advises lawmakers, advocates for conservative policies and facilitates hiring for some congressional offices.

The think tank has picked up several Trump administration figures, including former Vice President Mike Pence, who is serving as a distinguished visiting fellow.

-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.

Related: More Lawmakers, Veterans Groups Call for VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to Resign

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