Bush nominates physician to lead VA

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President Bush yesterday named James Peake, MD, a retired Army lieutenant general and executive of a firm that earns most of its revenue from federal veteran’s programs, to head the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), according to the Los Angeles (LA) Times.

Peake, 63, a Vietnam veteran, served as the Army's chief medical officer for four years. If the Senate confirms him, Peake will replace James Nicholson, who resigned on Oct. 1.

The LA Times reported that Bush said that Peake, as a result of injuries in Vietnam, “understands the view from both sides of the hospital bed.” Bush also said that Peake would be the first physician and the first general appointed to the position.

Peake is the medical director, chief operating officer and a director of QTC Management, a Diamond Bar, Calif.-based company that holds two contracts with the VA to perform thousands of physical exams per year on veterans seeking disability assistance. With one contract, QTC could earn more than $1 billion for performing those exams through 2008, according to the LA Times.

He was named by President Bill Clinton as the Army's surgeon general in 2000 and retired in 2004 to serve as vice president of Project Hope, a nonprofit international health foundation. He joined QTC last November.

At the White House press conference, Peake said that though the position is “an honor, it’s not an honorary position. There’s a lot of work to be done.” He added that he “looks forward to” working with the VA, Congress, and the veterans' services organizations, “not just for the short-term, but for the long-term.”