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Sloan Gibson, the man President Obama has tapped to temporarily run the Department of Veterans Affairs, is essentially a newcomer to the agency himself: he joined the VA as deputy secretary in February.
Now, Gibson, a West Point graduate who had served as president of the United Service Organizations for six years before his confirmation to work under Eric Shinseki, will take the helm of the VA in the midst of a crisis over findings that veterans hospitals left injured former soldiers waiting months for care and at times never put them on waiting lists.
Gibson is unlikely to be the permanent head of the agency, but the president felt compelled to put him in charge for now, as Shinseki was facing calls for his resignation from both Democrats and Republicans.
“We're going to need a new VA secretary, so Sloan is acting,” Obama said at a press conference announcing Shinseki’s resignation. “And Sloan I think would be the first to acknowledge that he's going to have a learning curve that he's got to deal with. But the nature of the problem that has surfaced and has been the cause of this attention is one that he can start tackling right away without completely transforming the system.”
Gibson, who served in the Army, is familiar with veterans issues from both his own military career and running USO, a non-profit which helps arrange activities to support U.S. troop serving overseas as well as helping them transition and find jobs once they return home.
“Having led a non-profit organization supporting the military, I bring an understanding of how Veterans Service Organizations and other non-governmental organizations can and do work collaboratively with government departments to accomplish more for those they serve,” Gibson said at his confirming hearing in November.
Before the USO, Gibson worked for more than 20 years in banking.