Obama Mulls Options for Veterans Affairs Secretary, Including Tammy Duckworth and Max Cleland

Duckworth was wounded while serving as a pilot in Iraq, while Cleland is a Vietnam vet.


Paul Rieckhoff, founder and director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Although Hill insiders say they haven't heard his name mentioned as a contender, some blogs are buzzing with the possibility. An Iraq war veteran, 33-year-old Rieckhoff created IAVA in 2004. It has become one of the most vocal veterans organizations, most recently leading the fight for a new GI bill. Rieckhoff himself is no less vigorous. One of the first soldiers returning from Iraq to criticize the war publicly and demand accountability and better care for veterans, he has appeared on hundreds of media programs and written a book on his Iraq service. In the wake of Obama's victory, he published a memo listing three critical policies he wants to see tackled in the first 100 days of the new presidency. He'd be an energetic addition to the Obama cabinet.

Arnold Fisher, partner in real estate firm Fisher Brothers and former chairman of the Fisher House Foundation. The 75-year-old Korean War veteran brings to the table a passion for philanthropy. For four years, he led a charity that donates homes so that more than 10,000 military families each year can stay close to a loved one during a hospitalization; his son now heads it. He is involved with the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which gives grants to families of military personnel killed during service, and was made an honorary knight of the British Empire in 2005 for helping British Armed Forces families. His age could be seen as a handicap, but his significant leadership experience and concern for veterans' issues might keep his name on the table.

Patrick Murphy, congressman from Pennsylvania. A decorated Iraq war veteran and former West Point professor, Murphy has gained a reputation for his advocacy of veterans, earning a rare perfect score from IAVA on its congressional report card. He has cosponsored legislation on several significant issues, including funding up to four years of education for service members, mandating a mental-health evaluation for new veterans, and requiring the VA to screen veterans for traumatic brain injury and for risk factors of suicide. Politically, his pick could make sense. The 35-year-old is seen as an up-and-comer in the Democratic Party, winning his second House term by 15 percentage points. And as the first nonblack lawmaker outside Illinois to pledge his support for Obama, as well as a volunteer who stumped for him before the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries, he has positioned himself well for a job in the new administration.

Phillip Carter, Obama campaign's top veterans adviser. Before he joined the campaign in June, Carter was in Iraq, first as a military police officer with the Army, then as an embedded adviser with the Iraqi police. But his experience isn't just military. Along with his background as an Obama adviser and spokesperson, the 33-year-old has practiced law and been published in Slate and the Washington Post. With rumors swirling that Obama wants to pick a young figure from his campaign, Carter could be a possibility.