President Biden Announces Key Nominees
WASHINGTON – Today, President Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to serve as key leaders in his administration:
- Shereef Elnahal, Nominee for Under Secretary for Health, Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs
- Ray Jefferson, Nominee for Under Secretary for Benefits, Veterans Benefits Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs
- Rita Landgraf, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Aging, Department of Health and Human Services
- Roselyn Tso, Nominee for Director of the Indian Health Service, Department of Health and Human Services
- Patrick Murphy, Nominee for Chair of the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission, Department of Veterans Affairs
- Jonathan Woodson, Nominee for Vice Chair of the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission, Department of Veterans Affairs
- William Blake, Nominee for Member of the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission, Department of Veterans Affairs
- Michael Blecker, Nominee for Member of the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission, Department of Veterans Affairs
- Christine Hill, Nominee for Member of the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission, Department of Veterans Affairs
- Joyce Johnson, Nominee for Member of the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission, Department of Veterans Affairs
- Lucretia McClenney, Nominee for Member of the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission, Department of Veterans Affairs
- José Ramos, Nominee for Member of the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission, Department of Veterans Affairs
Shereef Elnahal, Nominee for Under Secretary for Health, Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs
Dr. Shereef Elnahal is a physician leader who has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of University Hospital in Newark, NJ since 2019. Prior to this role, Elnahal served as New Jersey’s 21st Health Commissioner, appointed by Governor Phil Murphy and confirmed unanimously by the New Jersey Senate. He was the first Muslim member of New Jersey’s Cabinet in state history. He also served as Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Quality, Safety, and Value at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs from 2016 through 2018, overseeing quality of care for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). He co-founded the VHA Innovation Ecosystem, a program that continues to foster the spread of innovation and best practices that improve veteran care across the nation.
Elnahal led University Hospital through the COVID-19 public health emergency, and also set up one of the first COVID-19 vaccination sites in NJ, vaccinating the state’s first health care worker on December 15th, 2020. In addition, Elnahal has overseen improvements in care quality and patient safety at the hospital. He has brought his public health background to bear in community-based programming, including a recently announced partnership with a developer and the NJ Housing and Mortgage Financing Authority to provide supportive housing to homeless patients; a hospital-based violence intervention program that has served as a national model; and a program that deploys trusted chaplains as community health workers.
Ray Jefferson, Nominee for Under Secretary for Benefits, Veterans Benefits Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs
Ray Jefferson is the President of Jefferson Group, a global leadership development consultancy, as well as the Chair and Co-Founder of the Service Academies Global Summit. Earlier in his career, Jefferson served as a White House Fellow and worked as a Special Assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Additionally, he served as a Fulbright Fellow in Singapore; as the Deputy Director for Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism; and as a Leadership Consultant with McKinsey & Company based in Singapore. In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Jefferson as the Senate-confirmed U.S. Assistant Secretary for Veterans’ Employment and Training at the U.S. Department of Labor.
Jefferson graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1988 and served as an Army Officer with the infantry, Rangers, and Special Forces. Jefferson lost all five fingers on his left hand while attempting to protect his teammates from a hand grenade detonating prematurely during training. He attended Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, earning an MPA in Strategic Management, and went on to earn an MBA from Harvard Business School. Jefferson’s commitment to service has been recognized throughout his career, including when he was selected by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell as one of the two inaugural recipients of the Harrison H. Schmitt Fulbright Alumni Leadership Award for dedication to public service. Jefferson is a member of the Asia Society, Council on Foreign Relations (life member), Fulbright Association, HBS African-American Alumni Association, NAACP, Special Forces Association, 75th Ranger Regiment Association, and Young Presidents’ Organization. Born and raised in Guilderland, New York, he now considers home to be Honolulu, Hawaii.
Rita Landgraf, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Aging, Department of Health and Human Services
Rita Landgraf joined the University of Delaware’s College of Health Sciences in 2017 as Professor of Practice and Distinguished Health and Social Services Administrator in Residence. She also serves as Director of the UD Partnership for Healthy Communities, a cross-college, cross-state initiative. Landgraf serves as a leader within the Dean’s Office and supports a variety of activities including community engagement and outreach, development of a Master’s level degree in public health, and the college’s pipeline program. Landgraf’s focus is concentrated on the social, economic, and environmental conditions that support and sustain healthy communities and the relationship of these conditions to promote equity in health, a cost-effective health system, and the advancement of policy.
From 2009 to 2017, Landgraf served as Cabinet Secretary of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services under Governor Jack Markell. As Secretary, she led the principal agency charged with keeping Delawareans healthy, ensuring they get the health care they need, and providing children, families, individuals with disabilities and seniors with the essential services. She managed one of the largest departments in Delaware’s government that included Medicaid, aging and disability services, with an annual budget of over $2 billion. Under Landgraf’s leadership, Delaware expanded community-based services to help older adults age in place, and people with disabilities live, work and participate in their communities. Landgraf is the former President of AARP Delaware, the former Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Delaware, and the former Executive Director of the Arc of Delaware.
Roselyn Tso, Nominee for Director of the Indian Health Service, Department of Health and Human Services
Roselyn Tso is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. Tso began her career with the Indian Health Service (IHS) in 1984. She previously served in various roles in the Portland Area IHS and IHS Headquarters. Currently, Tso serves as the Area Director for the Navajo Area IHS. The Navajo Area IHS delivers health services to a user population of over 244,000 American Indians; the Navajo Nation is one of the largest Indian reservations in the United States consisting of more than 25,000 contiguous square miles and three satellite communities, and extends into portions of the states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. In her leadership position, she was responsible for the implementation of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Act and worked directly with tribes and direct service tribes.
Tso holds a Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary studies from Marylhurst University in Portland, Oregon and a master’s degree in organizational management from the University of Phoenix, Portland, Oregon.
Patrick Murphy, Nominee for Chair of the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission, Department of Veterans Affairs
Patrick Murphy, a Pennsylvania native, was the first Iraq War Veteran to serve in Congress. He received a Bronze Star for his service in Iraq as paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division. While in Congress, Murphy led the signing of two landmark bills into law, including the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the 21st Century GI Bill. As Under Secretary of the Army during the Obama-Biden Administration, Murphy oversaw the management and operation of the Army – a Fortune 10-sized organization and the nation’s second largest employer of over 1.3 million individuals. Murphy led the expansion of the Soldier for Life initiative, which saved $340M in FY16, and helped the Army reach recruitment goals for the first time in five years with over 130,000 millennials hired.
In 2019, Murphy chaired the Cyberspace Solarium Commission which generated more than 100 recommendations for improving the United States’ approach to digital security issues, many of which became law through multiple defense bills and a high-profile infrastructure package. For the last several years, Murphy has been working across the public and private sector to invest in veteran-owned businesses, advocate for stronger healthcare policy, and recruiting young people and veterans to run for public office.
Jonathan Woodson, Nominee for Vice Chair of the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission, Department of Veterans Affairs
Dr. Jonathan Woodson is the Lars Anderson Professor in Management and Professor of the Practice at the Boston University Questrom School of Business, and holds joint appointments as Professor of Surgery at the School of Medicine, and Professor of Health Law, Policy, and Management at the School of Public Health. He established and led the University-wide Institute for Health System Innovation and Policy.
From 2010-2016, Woodson was the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs and Director of the Tricare Management Activity in the United States Department of Defense (DOD). He was the principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense for all health and force health protection related issues, and ensured the effective execution of the DOD medical mission. He exercised authority, direction, and control over the Defense Health Agency, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute, Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, and the Tricare Health Plan serving 9.5 million beneficiaries. Woodson holds the rank of Major General, United States Army, Reserve, and is Commander of the United States Army Reserve Medical Command, Pinellas Park, Florida.
William Carl Blake, Nominee for Member of the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission, Department of Veterans Affairs
Carl Blake is the Executive Director for Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), a position he has served in since January 2018. He is responsible for exercising administrative control, as directed by the President of PVA, of all offices and functions of the organization, including overseeing all efforts devoted to financial management, development and fundraising, strategic communications, and service programs executed by PVA. Blake previously served as the Associate Executive Director of Government Relations for PVA. He has represented PVA to federal agencies and has frequently testified before committees of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
Blake was raised in Woodford, Virginia. He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. He received a Bachelor of Science Degree from the Military Academy in May 1998. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (1st Brigade) of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He graduated from Infantry Officer Basic Course, U.S. Army Ranger School, U.S. Army Airborne School, and Air Assault School. His awards include the Army Commendation Medal, Expert Infantryman’s Badge, and German Parachutist Badge. Blake retired from the military in October 2000 due to injuries suffered during a parachute training exercise. He completed spinal cord injury rehabilitation at the Richmond VA Medical Center in Virginia. Blake received his Master’s in Public Administration from Old Dominion University with a concentration in Nonprofit Management. Blake lives in Fredericksburg, VA, with his wife Venus, son Jonathan, and daughter Brooke.
Michael Blecker, Nominee for Member of the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission, Department of Veterans Affairs
Michael Blecker served in the U.S. Army from 1967 to 1970, with combat infantry service in Vietnam from 1968 – 1969. Upon finishing law school, he joined Swords to Plowshares in 1976 to help veterans navigate the complex VA disability system. In 1982, he became Executive Director of Swords to Plowshares, and has over the past 45 years guided the agency from its small grassroots origins to one with a continuum of specialized services and an annual budget of over $35 million.
Blecker has a nationwide reputation for dedicated service and as an authority on veterans’ services and veterans’ rights. He is co-founder of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans and the California Association of Veterans’ Service Agencies. He has served on the Congressional Commission on Service Members and Veterans Transition Assistance, the California Senate Commission on Homeless Veterans, the San Francisco Mayor’s Homeless Planning Committee, the National Agent Orange Settlement Advisory Board, the Agent Orange Information Center, and the Veterans Speakers Alliance. From 2015 to 2016, Blecker served on the federal Commission on Care, examining veteran access to VA care.
Christine Hill, Nominee for Member of the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission, Department of Veterans Affairs
Christine Hill currently serves as the Republican Staff Director for the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health. Prior to this position, she was the Executive Vice President, Government Affairs for Wounded Warrior Project (WWP). In the Bush Administration, Hill was Senate-confirmed as the Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Legislative Affairs for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to her appointment, Hill was Director, Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs for the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. Before joining this congressionally mandated commission, Hill was the military legislative assistant to Senator Elizabeth Dole.
A 1983 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, Hill held numerous positions as a KC-135 instructor navigator and senior standardization/evaluation navigator. During this time, she flew combat support during the U.S. intervention in Panama, and was deployed to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, flying in support of Desert Storm as the chief of tanker air operations. Following an assignment to Headquarters Air Combat Command, Hill was hand-picked to become the first woman assigned to fly the B-1B Bomber. She completed qualification as both an offensive and defensive systems officer and was the first initial qualification student combat qualified as a weapons system officer and instructor. During this time, she also held various Squadron- and Wing-level leadership positions. Hill concluded her military career at the Pentagon with assignments in Air Force plans and budget, and in the weapon systems division of the Air Force Office of Legislative Liaison. She retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.
Joyce Johnson, Nominee for Member of the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission, Department of Veterans Affairs
Rear Admiral Dr. Joyce M. Johnson, DO, MA is a physician with senior public health leadership experience in the civilian and military sectors. Her last active duty assignment was with the U.S. Coast Guard as Director, Health and Safety and she retired at the rank of Rear Admiral, Upper Half (08). As a physician, she is board certified in Public Health/Preventive Medicine and Psychiatry, and is also a board-certified Clinical Pharmacologist and Certified Addiction Specialist. She is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, earning a D.O. degree; prior to that she earned a master’s degree in Hospital and Health Administration.
Based on her previous experiences, Johnson understands the clinical needs of veterans from both provider and patient perspectives, and recognizes the many contributions the VA health care system makes to patients, their families, and the overall community in meeting the needs of America’s veterans. For many years, she was a surveyor for a national accreditation body, surveying both inpatient and ambulatory care facilities. At the Department of Veterans Affairs, Johnson served as a Senior Research Resident, and more recently on has been appointed to the VA Commission on Care, the Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation, and the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans. In addition, Johnson served on the Board and chaired several committees of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). Johnson has been awarded eight honorary doctoral degrees, and has extensive on-site disaster relief experience, and has provided clinical care and/or medical consultation on all seven continents.
Lucretia McClenney, Nominee for Member of the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission, Department of Veterans Affairs
Lucretia M. McClenney has dedicated her professional life to our nation’s men and women who have served and are serving in uniformed armed services, and their families. She served with distinction for 30 years in the Army in various medical treatment facilities and staffs worldwide, and retired as a Colonel in November 2001. Immediately following McClenney’s retirement from the Army, she joined the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Planning, and Preparedness. She also served as Director of the VA’s Center for Minority Veterans, where she was the principal advisor to the Secretary of the VA on policies and programs affecting minority veterans. As an outcome of her efforts in this role, the VA established an Office of Health Equity to ensure health equity for all veterans.
Her dedication and passion for the health care of veterans led to her selection in 2015 to serve on the congressionally mandated Commission on Care that provided recommendations for transforming veterans’ health care. She served as a consultant with the DOD Vietnam War Commemoration. Currently, McClenney is a member of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) Board of Directors, VA’s Former POW Advisory Committee, a Life Member of The ROCKS, Inc., and a Life Member of Alpha Kappa Sorority, Inc. She received a BSN from Murray State University, and an MSN in Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing from Catholic University. She lives in Alexandria, VA.
José Ramos, Nominee for Member of the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission, Department of Veterans Affairs
José R. Ramos is the Vice President of Government and Community Relations for the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP). Ramos grew up in El Paso, TX and joined the Navy as a Hospital Corpsman, spending his entire career serving alongside Marines as a platoon “Doc”. He served one tour in Afghanistan and two tours in Iraq. In 2004, while serving as a member of a Sniper Team, he was hit by a rocket and was severely injured. His injuries were nearly fatal and included a left arm amputation, lung contusions, nerve damage to the left leg, bulged discs in the lumbar region, and numerous shrapnel wounds which led to his retirement from service in November 2005. Ramos used adaptive sports through his recovery, running the New York City Marathon, cycling with other injured troops from Washington, D.C. to the Hamptons, N.Y. in seven days, and competed in endurance events as a way of raising awareness for those with disabilities.
In 2007, Ramos was appointed by President Bush to serve on the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors, tasked to conduct a review of the care America is providing wounded servicemen and women returning from the battlefield. Ramos graduated from George Mason University, summa cum laude, with a B.A. in Government and International Politics and a Minor in Islamic Studies. Earlier in Ramos’ career, he worked at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, sat on the Peer Reviewed Orthopedic Research Program Integration Panel for the Department of Defense, and served as a Special Assistant at the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs. Ramos resides in Great Falls, VA with his wife Jodie, their sons Donovan and Luke, and their Labrador Scout.