(CNN) - President-elect Barack Obama announced Sunday that retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki is his pick for secretary of Veterans Affairs.
The nation needs "a 21st Century" Department of Veterans Affairs "that will better serve all who have answered our nation's call," he said at a news conference in Chicago.
"And there is no one more distinguished, more determined, or more qualified to build this VA than the leader I am announcing as our next Secretary of Veterans Affairs - General Eric Shinseki. No one will ever doubt that this former Army chief of staff has the courage to stand up for our troops and our veterans. No one will ever question whether he will fight hard enough to make sure they have the support they need."
He said Shinseki "understands the changing needs of our troops and their families. And he will be a VA secretary who finally modernizes our VA to meet the challenges of our time."
Shinseki, who stepped to the microphone after Obama, made a vow to his fellow veterans. If confirmed, he said, he will "work each and every day" to ensure the nation is serving them "as well as you have served us."
In an interview that aired earlier on NBC's "Meet The Press," Obama said, "When I reflect on the sacrifices that have been made by our veterans and I think about how so many veterans around the country are struggling even more than those who have not served - higher unemployment rates, higher homeless rates, higher substance abuse rates, medical care that is inadequate - it breaks my heart," Obama told NBC's "Meet the Press."
"And I think that General Shinseki is exactly the right person who's going to be able to make sure that we honor our troops when they come home."
The official announcement took place in Chicago on Sunday, the anniversary of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.