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2013 Health / Veterans Affairs Department

Tommy Sowers, Assistant Secretary, Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

(Richard A. Bloom)

Sowers has been a man on the move since 1998, when he was commissioned in the Army Corps of Engineers. In his 11-year military career he saw combat in Kosovo and Iraq, wrote a doctoral dissertation in London, and taught at West Point. Upon returning to civilian life, he ran unsuccessfully for Congress in his native Missouri. But since being nominated by Obama in May 2012 to be assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs, Sowers has finally found a home. "I truly love this job," he said. "It's an incredible privilege to fight to make sure veterans can access their benefits." Sowers, 37, is leading a youth movement at the VA. He suspects the department's leadership "wanted a younger veteran" to be its public face, someone who could connect with a generation of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. "I've got buddies that are deployed right now," he explained. But youth is not his sole qualification. A decorated veteran who attained the rank of major with the Army Special Forces, Sowers has spent 15 years preparing for this position. Having taught courses on mass media and politics and advised a nonprofit specializing in veterans' services, Sowers is uniquely qualified for a job that's equal parts media engagement and strategic partnerships. For Sowers, it's a calling more than a job. He believes in the VA's mission, having experienced firsthand how the department's benefit programs can help veterans. "This is very personal for me," Sowers said. "The VA has made my life better." He holds an undergraduate degree from Duke University and a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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