Obama Nominates Shinseki To Lead VA President-elect Barack Obama on Sunday introduced retired Gen. Eric Shinseki as his choice to run the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Obama's charge to Shinseki: Help veterans facing problems like drug abuse, homelessness and poor health care.

Obama Nominates Shinseki To Lead VA

Obama Nominates Shinseki To Lead VA

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President-elect Barack Obama on Sunday named retired Gen. Eric Shinseki as his choice to be the next secretary of veterans affairs.

Shinseki, the first Japanese-American four-star general in the Army, is best known for clashing with then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld before the invasion of Iraq, when Shinseki warned that the Bush administration was not planning to send in enough troops.

There's special significance to Obama using this day — Dec. 7 — to announce his choice of Shinseki: This is the 67th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor — a moment in the nation's history both Obama and Shinseki understand well, as both grew up in Hawaii.

Shinseki graduated from West Point in 1965, then served two tours of combat duty in Vietnam. He was wounded there, losing part of his foot when he stepped on a land mine.

Shinseki rose through the ranks of the Army to become the first Asian-American four-star general and, ultimately, the first Asian-American to head one of the military branches.

"And there is no one more distinguished, more determined or more qualified to build this VA than the leader I am announcing as our next secretary of veterans affairs — Gen. Eric Shinseki," Obama said Sunday.

Shinseki proved prophetic in 2003 when, during the buildup to the invasion of Iraq, he warned a congressional committee that securing Iraq after the invasion would require hundreds of thousands of troops.

Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz belittled Shinseki's assessment, calling it wildly off the mark. Marginalized, Shinseki retired later in 2003.

Obama, an outspoken critic of the Iraq war, seems to appreciate Shinseki's candor.

"No one will ever doubt that this former Army chief of staff has the courage to stand up for our troops and our veterans. No one will ever question whether he will fight hard enough to make sure they have the support that they need."

Shinseki acknowledges many veterans today worry about their physical, mental and economic health upon leaving the service.

"Veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan in particular are confronting serious, severe wounds — some seen, some unseen — making it difficult for them to get on with their lives in this struggling economy. They deserve a smooth, error-free, no-fail, benefits-assured transition into our ranks as veterans. And that is our responsibility, not theirs."

Shinseki pledges that, if confirmed, he will work to serve veterans as well as they have served the country.