The Department of Veterans Affairs' acting under secretary for benefits has been nominated to fill the permanent role of undersecretary, a position that oversees the agency’s benefits system for hundreds of thousands of veterans that has not had a Senate-confirmed executive in more than two years.
On Monday the Biden administration announced the nomination of Joshua Jacobs, currently serving as a senior policy adviser performing the duties of the under secretary for benefits, to formally be the benefits chief.
The job entails running the Veterans Benefits Administration, which oversees processing and management of roughly $135 billion worth of disability compensation and other non-medical benefits to 350,000 veterans or their survivors.
The department is made up of VBA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.; processing centers; and 56 regional offices.
Jacobs is a longtime VA employee and a former U.S. Senate staffer, including two years as deputy staff director for the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
Jacobs is the second nominee put forward by the administration for the job. Former Army Ranger and Department of Labor executive Ray Jefferson was nominated in March 2022, but his name was withdrawn following concerns over alleged contract impropriety during his time at the department. Jefferson was later cleared by the Department of Labor's inspector general.
If confirmed, Jacobs would assume the role of undersecretary as the VA faces growing demand for benefits and disability compensation under the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics, or PACT, Act.
As of mid-January, more than 234,000 claims had been filed under the legislation, which provides health care and disability compensation to veterans exposed to burn pits and other hazardous conditions while deployed.
Montana Democrat Sen. Jon Tester chairs the committee that will hold Jacobs' nomination hearing.
In a statement to Military.com, Tester said he looks forward to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee's "swift consideration of" Jacobs' nomination.
"As the acting Under Secretary for Benefits, Joshua Jacobs has shown a strong commitment to leading the Department of Veterans Affairs in delivering veterans and their families timely access to their earned benefits. This is especially important as the Department works to deliver long-overdue benefits for veterans suffering from toxic-exposures and newly eligible for support under the PACT Act," Tester said.
The committee is expected to hold Jacobs' confirmation hearing in the coming weeks.
-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Military.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime