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Veterans Affairs Chief Steps Down After Four Years


WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 7) -- Veterans Affairs Secretary Jesse Brown plans to leave his post July 1, and President Bill Clinton accepted the resignation Saturday "with deep regret."

Brown, a former Marine wounded in Vietnam, has served in the Clinton Cabinet for four years and is credited with winning substantial spending increases at a time of tight finances in Washington. He is the eighth member of the original Clinton Cabinet to leave since the end of Clinton's first term.

In a letter to the president, Brown said his Cabinet service had been the "high point" of his life. But he indicated he had done the job long enough and that such a position was "too important" to be considered "career employment."

His likely successor is Hershel W. Gober, deputy secretary for veterans affairs. Gober, a Clinton friend from Arkansas, was once a veterans affairs leader in Little Rock. He helped mobilize support among veterans for Clinton's 1992 campaign. Gober, 60, also is a Vietnam veteran.

Brown a staunch advocate for his agency

Clinton praised Brown for his focus on the health concerns of Gulf War and Vietnam veterans and others and for his commitment to "improve the lives of veterans and their families."

During his tenure, Brown boldly told lawmakers to cut other programs before coming after the Department of Veterans Affairs. He also succeeded in leading the agency away from its extensive network of hospitals toward a system of outpatient care for the nation's 26 million veterans.

Brown, 53, who lost use of an arm in combat in Vietnam, also secured funding increases of nearly $1 billion a year for the department at a time when all branches of the government were pinching pennies.

With an annual budget of $41 billion and 215,000 workers, it ranks second in size -- after the Department of Defense -- among Cabinet agencies.

Brown ran the Washington office of the Disabled American Veterans before joining the Clinton administration. He is only the second person to be confirmed as Veterans Affairs secretary since the department became a Cabinet agency in 1989.

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