POSTED: 8:59 a.m. HST, May 30, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 9:38 a.m. HST, May 30, 2014
WASHINGTON >> The man who is temporarily replacing Eric Shinseki as secretary of Veterans Affairs is a U.S. Military Academy graduate, a onetime banker and a former chief executive of the USO who joined the Department of Veterans Affairs just three months ago.
The acting secretary, Sloan D. Gibson, was confirmed by the Senate in February to be Shinseki's deputy. But with Shinseki's resignation amid a scandal over waiting times at Veterans Affairs medical centers, President Barack Obama on Friday elevated Gibson while the White House searches for a permanent replacement.
During his five years at the USO, Gibson oversaw "dramatic growth," according to his official biography on the Veterans Affairs website, which notes that "net fundraising grew 90 percent." Before his time there, Gibson spent more than two decades in banking in cities including Charlotte, North Carolina; Atlanta; Nashville; and Birmingham, Alabama.
The son of a member of the Army Air Corps who served as a B-17 tail gunner during World War II, Gibson graduated from West Point in 1975 and later obtained a master's degree in economics from the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and a master's in public administration from Harvard.
In 2011, while Gibson was running the USO, Obama awarded the organization the National Medal of Arts "for lifting the spirits of service members and their families through the arts." Gibson accepted the award at the White House on behalf of the organization.
In his new Veterans Affairs post, he will be charged with the immediate task of getting veterans off long waiting lists to see doctors. Obama described the challenge Friday, assuring reporters that Gibson was up to the task.
"How do we make sure that there's no slippage between somebody making a phone call and then getting an appointment scheduled?" Obama said. "And let's have a realistic time for how soon they're going to get an appointment. Those are things that don't require rocket science. It requires execution. It requires discipline. It requires focus. Those are things that Sloan has."