VA Deputy Secretary to Step Down After Nearly 2 Years

Department of Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Donald Remy
Department of Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Donald Remy, speaks from the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex in Washington, Monday, April 11, 2022, about medical debt during an event with Vice President Kamala Harris. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The Department of Veterans Affairs' second highest leader will leave his position at the end of the month, a departure that will affect management and oversight of the VA's troubled electronic health record program.

Deputy Secretary Donald Remy announced Wednesday that he will leave as of April 1. Remy, an Army veteran who previously led the NCAA as chief operating officer, has served at the VA since July 19, 2021, and has been responsible for leading implementation of the department's troubled Millennium medical records program.

Remy did not give a reason for his resignation. In a statement, he said it had been "the honor of a lifetime" to serve the nation's veterans, their families and survivors.

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"I thank President Biden, Secretary [Denis] McDonough, and all of VA for this incredible opportunity. Most of all, I thank my fellow Veterans for the privilege of serving them as deputy secretary of Veterans Affairs," Remy said in the statement.

The departure leaves a leadership gap over the department's health record modernization initiative. Last week, the director of the VA's Electronic Health Record Modernization Integration Office, Dr. Terry Adirim, stepped down after 13 months on the job to "pursue other opportunities."

The $16 billion program, initially intended to be rolled out across the Veterans Health Administration in 10 years, has had its share of problems, with repeated delays in implementation and pauses related to system failures that have led to appointment cancellations, training challenges and incidents that resulted in harm to patients -- mostly minor issues but at least one case that endangered the life of a suicidal veteran, according to the VA Office of Inspector General.

Lawmakers have called for placing the planned rollout on hold until all issues are resolved at the facilities where it is currently in use.

In a memo to staff Wednesday, Remy did not mention the health records program among the accomplishments for which he praised VA workers. He did include a laundry list of their accomplishments, however, including progress in reducing veterans' suicide and homelessness; implementing the PACT Act; COVID-19 pandemic care for veterans, including telehealth; expanding care to veterans; and improving diversity across the organization.

"I thank you all for your unwavering dedication to fighting like hell for those we serve: people like my dad, my brother, and me," Remy said in the memo.

In a statement Wednesday, McDonough called his deputy "a great leader, a true friend and a steadfast public servant."

"He's helped lead VA through the pandemic and to the point where we are delivering more care and more benefits to more Veterans than ever before," McDonough said. "It's been an honor to serve alongside him."

Guy Kiyokawa, assistant secretary for enterprise integration at VA, will serve as acting deputy secretary following Remy's departure. A former Army Medical Service Corps officer, his expertise lies in strategic planning and performance, risk management, policy and analysis, and data analytics.

Department officials said they are working with the Biden administration on finding a new deputy secretary. He or she must face a confirmation hearing and a vote before taking office.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime

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