President Biden on March 9 announced his intent to nominate several individuals to serve as key leaders in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), among the chosen were Dr. Shereef Elnahal and Ray Jefferson.

Elnahal is the President’s nominee for under secretary of Health for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) at the VA, while President Biden also nominated Jefferson to serve as the under secretary for Benefits for the Veterans Benefits Administration at the VA.

Elnahal brings to the role a long-standing record in improving transparency and care for veterans. During the Obama administration era, Elnahal was appointed the director for the Diffusion of Excellence Initiative, where he established an operating model for the identification and spread of best practices in care delivery across the hospital systems. Later in 2016, Elnahal served as assistant deputy under secretary for Health for Quality, Safety, and Value at the VA – a position he held until 2018 – overseeing the quality of care for the VHA.

Elnahal also co-founded the VHA Innovation Ecosystem, a program that continues to foster the spread of innovation and best practices that improve veteran care across the nation.

Currently, Elnahal is the president and chief executive officer at University Hospital in Newark, NJ – a position he has held since 2019. Before this, Elnahal was appointed by NJ Governor Phil Murphy and confirmed unanimously by the New Jersey Senate to serve as the state’s 21st Health Commissioner, making him the first Muslim member of New Jersey’s Cabinet in state history.

“President Biden has made the right choice in asking [Elnahal] to serve as under secretary for Health for the VHA at the VA. Elnahal brought together diverse communities and put equity at the forefront of his work. Moreover, his efforts at ensuring the ability of University Hospital to serve all needing care throughout the COVID pandemic have been nothing short of herculean,” Gov. Murphy said in a statement. “The VA and our nation’s veterans will be the better for his returning expertise and knowledge in one of the Federal government’s truly consequential posts.”

In 2009, Jefferson was appointed by former President Obama to serve as assistant secretary for Veterans’ Employment and Training at the U.S. Department of Labor. In this role Jefferson “completely transformed and revamped the obsolete, 19-year old Transition Assistance Program’s Employment Workshop, which serves about 120,000 Veterans annually, benchmarking it to national & global best practices,” according to his LinkedIn page.

Jefferson is currently the president of Jefferson Group, a global leadership consultancy based in Singapore. He has spent more than three decades working with global public and private sector agencies creating and delivering training and development programs that emphasize transformational leadership.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.