Organization of the Health Functions of Other Federal Agencies

Undersecretary for Health in the Department of Veterans Affairs

The health function in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is headed by an undersecretary for health. He or she is appointed by the President, with Senate confirmation, and is directly responsible to the secretary of veterans affairs for the operation of the Veterans Health Administration, including all health functions and facilities of the department. Unlike most other presidential appointees in the executive branch, the undersecretary is required to be appointed without regard to political affiliation or activity, but rather on the basis of professional qualifications as a health care practitioner or administrator and prior experience in connection with veterans health programs (38 U.S.C.A. § 305).

The statute calls for a commission to be established whenever a vacancy occurs in the office of undersecretary for the purpose of nominating at least three qualified individuals for appointment to the position by the President. After those names are submitted to the President, he may ask the commission to submit additional nominations for his consideration. The commission is composed of (1) three persons representing clinical care, medical research, and education activities affected by the Veterans Health Administration; (2) two persons representing veterans served by the Veterans Health Administration; (3) two persons with experience in or similar to the management of veterans health services or research; (4) the deputy secretary of veterans affairs; (5) the chairman of a Special Medical Advisory Group in the department; and (6) at the secretary’s discretion, a former undersecretary or chief medical officer of the VA.

The statute formerly established a term of office of four years for this position, but that provision was eliminated in 2006.15

The Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service

The Office of the Undersecretary for Food Safety was created by section 261 of the Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act of


P.L. 109-461, ­§ 210(a)(1), (2).

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