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Name: Walcoff, Michael
Current Position: Former Acting Under Secretary

A career employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Michael Walcoff has served as Acting Under Secretary for Benefits since January 4, 2010, and, according to some VA observers, could become the permanent head of the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), a position that has been vacant since February 2008, The last Under Secretary, George W. Bush appointee Daniel Cooper, infuriated many veterans when, at a time that the backlog of disability claims was mushrooming to 400,000, appeared in a religious fundraising video stating that Bible study was “more important than doing the job—the job's going to be there, whether I'm there or not."

Walcoff attended college at American University in Washington, D.C., where he received his Bachelor of Arts in political science. He later went to law school at Temple University in Philadelphia, receiving a Juris Doctor degree, and eventually became a member of the Pennsylvania Bar.
In 1974, he began his career as a VA claims examiner at the Philadelphia Regional Office and Insurance Center. He gradually moved up through the bureaucratic ranks, serving as director of the VBA regional offices in Seattle, Washington, and Huntington, West Virginia., as well as deputy area director of VBA’s Western Area.
Walcoff was then promoted to Associate Deputy Under Secretary for Field Operations, putting him in charge of VBA’s 57 regional offices and more than 13,000 employees.
In January 2008, he was appointed Deputy Under Secretary for Benefits, a post he held until becoming Acting Under Secretary for Benefits. In his current capacity, he directs the administration of VA’s disability compensation, pension, education, home loan guaranty, vocational rehabilitation and employment, and life insurance programs.
VA believes Walcoff’s elevation to Acting Under Secretary for Benefits is just a prelude to his becoming the permanent leader of the VBA at some point. He will be tasked with revamping a dysfunctional bureaucracy that has been routinely criticized for failing to assist veterans with their disability claims and other needs.
At a congressional hearing in March 2009, held in the wake of revelations that VBA officials had hidden away tens of thousands of unopened claims letters, Walcoff admitted that veterans have lost trust in his department. “That loss of trust is understandable, and winning back that trust will not be easy,” he told lawmakers.
At a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on June 15, Walcoff noted that, “In 2009, for the first time, we received over one million claims during the course of a single year. The volume of claims received has increased from 578,773 in 2000 to 1,013,712 in 2009 (a 75 percent increase).”
Unopened Claims Letters Hidden at VA Offices (by Rick Maze, Military Times)
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