Denis McDonough, Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Denis McDonough

Secretary of Veterans Affairs


Denis Richard McDonough was born in December 1969 in Stillwater, Minnesota. He earned an undergraduate degree in history and Spanish from Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, and later earned an M.S.F.S. degree at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. 

He worked as an aide for the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, focusing on Latin America which he had traveled through extensively. He then served as a senior policy advisor to a member of the Senate, later becoming legislative director for another senator. 

He served as a senior foreign policy advisor to President Barack Obama and later joined the National Security Council as head of strategic communication. He also served as National Security Council chief of staff. 

Returning to private life he joined a nonprofit foundation and was later a professor at Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs and a visiting senior fellow in Georgetown’s Technology and International Affairs Program. 

He was nominated by President Joe Biden to be the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in in February 2021. 

McDonough is married to Karin Hillstrom and they have three children. 

In the News…

Congress will not begin dealing with the federal budget again until January, but Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough isn’t waiting until then to raise awareness about veterans’ issues. 

In a progress call, Secretary McDonough called reports of a possible full-year budget extension for federal agencies a looming disaster for veterans care, veterans benefits and departmental operations. 

“It would have a significant negative impact,” he said. “The Veterans Health Administration budget would be shorted $941 million in community care funds. … The construction account would be $458 million below the president’s request, causing delays and cost increases. And the Veterans Benefits Administration would be $259 million lower, which would prevent us from hiring and training staff.” 

The new fiscal year for the federal government began October 1 without a new budget adopted by Congress. Legislators twice have extended fiscal 2021 spending levels into the new fiscal year, with those authorities set to end in mid-February. 

“It’s a source of concern for me and it is occupying a good amount of my time right now,” Secretary McDonough said. “This is a natural time, as we come to the end of the calendar year, to be thinking ahead about the kinds of things that will be major priorities for us when we flip the calendar, and this [budget problem] is on my mind.” 

Contact this Leader…

Did you pray for Secretary McDonough? You can let him know at:

The Honorable Denis McDonough, Secretary 
Department of Veterans Affairs 
810 Vermont Ave NW 
Washington, DC 20006 


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