Former Senator Elizabeth Dole stepped down suddenly from her Chair of the Federal Advisory Committee she helped create aimed at supporting the veteran caregiver community.
On Friday, Dole provided a warm handoff to her replacement, Lee Woodruff. Woodruff was selected by Secretary Denis McDonough and is known for co-founding the Bob Woodruff Foundation with her husband. She is a current committee member.
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Since 2017, the Federal Advisory Committee (FAC) has helped direct policies impacting veterans’ caregivers under the direction of Elizabeth Dole. She served as the first Chair of the Veterans’ Family, Caregiver, and Survivor Advisory Committee and held that position for the past five years.
Advisory committees generally cap membership at 2 years with certain exceptions. Dole received waivers over the past few years to maintain her position into her third term. Some familiar with the Committee and its history noted Dole’s transition out may have been premature.
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Neither VA or EDF has provided a press release concerning the transition at the time of this publication.
Lynda Davis On Dole Transition
The agency’s replacement decision spread across Facebook from the profile of Lynda Davis, former Chief of the Veterans’ Experience Office under the Trump Administration.
“Our beloved #SenatorElizabethDole, [was] the only name I offered as the first Chair of the VA’s Veteran Family, Caregiver and Survivor Federal Advisory Committee in 2017,” Davis shared. She went on to congratulate Lee Woodruff as the committee’s new chair describing Woodruff as “another effective advocate.”
Caregiver Community Raises Concerns
Some, including Veteran Warriors head Holly Ferrell, found the Chair change to be “a bit surprising.” For months, her organization has protested against certain “practices” by various members and agency officials steering the FAC’s policy recommendations. “With all the speculation and chaos within the Veteran Caregiver community, this quiet change shows the community is validated in questioning actions and intention.”
Dole’s decision to step down comes after two months of steady queries from news media at The Richard Leonard Show, successful litigation from Veteran Warriors, and months of social media pressure from caregivers fed up with the FAC and agency leadership.
Elizabeth Dole has spent most of her career in politics.
Dole served as Secretary of Labor and Secretary of Transportation under two separate Republican administrations. She assisted her husband, the late Robert Dole, in his unsuccessful presidential run in 1996. Dole nearly became the first woman Vice President in 2000. And, she was elected to the US Senate for North Carolina and served from 2003 to 2009.
Dole created EDF in 2012 and ran the organization as CEO until 2019. She helped create the Advisory Committee in 2017 and served as its Chair for multiple cycles until 2022. She negotiated multiple Memorandum of Understanding on behalf of EDF with VA while serving as Committee Chair. As of late, Dole and her organization helped champion pendig legislation under the “Elizabeth Dole” name, called the “Elizabeth Dole Home and Community Based Services for Veterans and Caregivers Act of 2022.”
Despite stepping down, it seems likely Dole will continue her work to move forward the various agendas she’s supported over the years through EDF and other philanthropic endeavors.
New VA Caregiver Program Direction
On September 15, policymakers within VA including Colleen Richardson, PsyD, announced a reverse course from pending discharges of 90% of legacy caregivers due March 2023.
Richardson, executive director of the Caregiver Program, ensured caregivers would remain in the program until at least September 30, 2025 with the recent rule change. The policy decision came a few months after Ferrell’s Veteran Warriors successfully litigated a portion of its lawsuit against the agency.
No doubt Secretary McDonough made the decision to transition in a new voice as Chair to provide a fresh leadership perspective to the FAC – – or Woodruff will provide interim leadership until a new Chair is selected from outside the Committee’s existing membership. Hopefully, Woodruff will live up to her reputation, in either case.
VA and EDF did not provide comment before publication.