By Daniel Ngongo

Tanya J. Bradsher shattered the glass ceiling on Sept. 20th, 2023, when she became the first confirmed female Deputy Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). During her visit to the University of Louisville, Bradsher talked with veteran students and staff, learning valuable insights into their experiences and needs. Bradsher also shared updates on the VA’s initiatives, including transitioning to a streamlined payment system, making transactions smoother for beneficiaries.

“It’s amazing. I am a fourth-generation army veteran, I served twenty years in the army, and not in my wildest dreams that I’d have the ability to serve in this role,” Bradsher reflected.

Bradsher’s journey to this role is not just a career milestone but a testament to her deep-rooted commitment to serving veterans, shaped by her own military experience and familial ties to the armed forces.

Bradsher is eagerly anticipating the new VA hospital being built in Louisville, a state-of-the-art facility that provides top-tier care to veterans. Specifics about the opening date were not disclosed.

Her passion for public service and dedication to the well-being of veterans are responsibilities she treats with grace and purpose.

A key focus of her tenure is amplifying support for women veterans, an underserved demographic within the veteran community. She emphasized the importance of reaching out to women veterans and dispelling misconceptions about VA services.

“If you try VA once and you didn’t like it, we are not the same VA,” Bradsher said, urging women veterans to explore the benefits they rightfully deserve.

Bradsher’s background is multifaceted. She’s played the role of a veteran, a mother, and a caregiver, and all equip her with a nuanced understanding of the challenges veterans face.

“All of those experiences have really served me well in the VA because I understand the caregiver aspect, I understand being a veteran, being in the system, how complicated it can be,” she explained.

The department doesn’t come without a few challenges. Bradsher emphasized the importance of expanding outreach efforts to untethered veterans, particularly those who may not have engaged with the VA previously. Initiatives like the PACT Act (crucial for those who were exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides during the Vietnam War) and other targeted outreach programs aim to bridge gaps and ensure that all eligible veterans receive the support they need.

As Memorial Day approaches, Bradsher urged the public to honor the sacrifices of military veterans through meaningful gestures of remembrance. Visiting veterans’ cemeteries, laying wreaths, and reflecting on the true meaning of Memorial Day—a solemn occasion—pays tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.

Photo Courtesy // Department of Veterans Affairs