J. M. Hedge was appointed to this position in November 2011. His role as the Assistant Director is to support the Director in administering a wide array of benefits and services to Veterans and their families living in the RO’s service area.
Prior to his appointment, Mr. Hedge served as the Chief, Support Services Division (SSD) at the Houston RO, where from September 2005 to November 2011 he managed the administrative/financial and support functions.
Mr. Hedge began his VA career in 1988 as Chief of the Labor-Management Relations Section at the Houston VA Medical Center. In February 2002, Mr. Hedge was selected to serve as one of VBA’s first Labor-Management Relations (LMR) Officers located in the field. Mr. Hedge served as the primary LMR instructor for Introduction to Leadership (ITL) and Division Leadership and Management Training (DLMT) at the VBA Training Academy in Baltimore for several years.
Mr. Hedge began his federal civilian career in 1989 with the Department of Justice (DOJ) Federal Bureau of Prisons, where he worked in a number of DOJ facilities across the nation and held progressively responsible positions such as Human Resources Manager, Assistant Human Resources Manager, and Human Resources Specialist. Mr. Hedge has 29 years of federal government service.
Mr. Hedge served on active duty in the U.S. Army for seven years, where he achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant, E-6. He is a service-disabled Veteran and a member of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).
Dick Laisure was appointed the Assistant Director of the Houston VA Regional Office on May 8, 2016. In the role of Assistant Director, he facilitates the administration of non-medical VA benefits and services to nearly 800,000 Veterans and their families across 90 counties in Texas, including Veterans living in Mexico, South America and the Caribbean.
Prior to this appointment, Dick served as the Director of the VA Records Management Center in St. Louis, MO. from October 21, 2012 through May 7, 2016. Mr. Laisure also served as the Assistant Director for the Little Rock VA Regional Office from June 22, 2008 through October 20, 2012, managing the day-to-day operations of the office.
Mr. Laisure worked as the Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment Officer for the Montgomery VA Regional Office from February 2005 to June 2008, where he was responsible for managing the vocational rehabilitation benefits provided by the VA for Alabama and Northwest Florida. He also operated as the VR&E Officer from August 2001 to January 2005 in Columbia, SC where he was responsible for managing the VA vocational rehabilitation benefits for the State of South Carolina.
Mr. Laisure began his VA career in 1991 serving as a Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1995, he moved to Fort Rucker, Alabama, to set up a new outbased vocational rehabilitation office. In 2000, he was appointed the Assistant VR&E Officer in Montgomery, Alabama.
Mr. Laisure has a Bachelor’s degree in Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, a Master’s Degree in Personnel Management from Troy University at Dothan, Alabama, and an Education Specialist degree in Agency Counseling from Troy University at Montgomery, Alabama. He is a graduate of the Leadership Enhancement and Development (LEAD) program class of 2000, a 2004 graduate of Leadership VA (LVA), a 2008 graduate of the Assistant Director Development Program (ADDP) and a graduate of the Federal Executive Institute – Leadership for a Democratic Society in August 2012.
Mr. Laisure is a disabled Veteran and served 14 years in the U.S. Army. He initially served as a Medic with the 101st Airborne Division and ended his career as a Captain flying the UH-1 and OH-58 helicopters.
Kelly Shupak has served in this position since December 2010. She is an Officer of one of the largest VR&E divisions in the nation. From 2006 to 2010, she served as the Houston Assistant VR&E Officer. She was also Wichita Acting VR&E Officer for a five-week detail in 2009.
Ms. Shupak began her VA career in 1998 as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor at the Houston RO. She is a graduate of three Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) leadership programs—Leadership Coaching 2012, Leadership Enhancement and Development (LEAD) 2006, and VR&E’s 2005 Managerial Enhancement Program (MEP). She has also completed numerous VBA Training Academy’s leadership development training programs, including Instructor Developmental Training (2000), Introduction to Leadership (2007), and Division Level Management Training (DLMT, 2009).
She has served on VA national workgroups, committees, and special assignments, including VR&E’s Workload Management TPSS pilot testing (2013), VR&E’s Fiscal Workgroup (2008–2009), Central Area’s interview panel for the LEAD 2008 class, and VR&E Vet Success’s National Acquisition Strategy (NAS) technical evaluation team (2007), 1st Session Quality Assurance Review Board (2010). She also served as an evaluator and trainer for VR&E MEP 2010 class.
She chaired the Houston RO’s Diversity Advisory and Awareness Committee (DAAC) from 2006 to 2008 and is currently serving as a mentor and trainer for its Success through Enhanced Preparation (STEP).
Ms. Shupak is a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. While attending Stephen F. Austin State University, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation and a master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling.
John Heil took this position in March 2009. He oversees lenders, servicers, fee appraisers, and other stakeholders to make sure they comply with federal regulations, applicable laws, and VA guidelines. He also oversees the 111 employees serving the 2.7 million Veterans, Servicemembers, their families and survivors in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas.
Mr. Heil is Gulf War Veteran. In 1991, he joined VA to work as a Veterans Claims Examiner before transferring to Home Loan Guaranty and serving as Loan Service Representative, Loan Specialist, Senior Loan Specialist, Assistant Valuation Officer, and Assistant Loan Production Officer in Atlanta, Nashville, Central Office, and St. Petersburg, respectively, from 1993 to 2006. In 2006, he was Assistant Loan Guaranty Officer for the Roanoke RO.
He served in the Air National Guard, Army National Guard, and Army Reserves from 1986 to 2009. During that time, he was called to active duty and served three wartime tours in the Middle East. He retired as a Major from the Army Reserve on Aug. 25, 2009. For his service, he was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal and Bronze Star Medal for exceptional meritorious service performed in a combat theater. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia, where he received degrees in History and Military Science.
Emile Dufrene was appointed as Veterans Service Center Manager of the Houston VA Regional Office (RO) effective January 2011. In his role as Veterans Service Center Manager of the Houston RO, Mr. Dufrene is responsible for administering a wide array of benefits in the areas of Compensation and Pension to nearly 800,000 Veterans and their families living in 90 southern counties in Texas, in addition to Veterans residing in Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. In January of 2013, Mr. Dufrene was appointed to the 8 member Veterans Service Center Manager Advisory Committee. This committee serves as an advisory body to the Compensation Service Director and represents all Veterans Service Centers.
During his tenure as the Veterans Service Center Manager of the Houston RO, Mr. Dufrene has actively supported VBA Transformation initiatives and visited multiple offices as a “Change Champion” to assist with their transformation. During FY12, the Houston RO was selected to develop and test a new claims processing model, based on claim segmentation and to write the procedures for the nation. Also, the Houston RO was selected as the pilot site to test recommendations from the Appeals Design Team to help streamline and improve appeals processing. Mr. Dufrene was also on the National Design team to reconstruct the performance standards for the Rating Veterans Service Representatives.
Prior to his appointment as Veterans Service Center Manager of the Houston VA Regional Office, Mr. Dufrene served as the Assistant Veterans Service Center Manager of the New Orleans VA Regional Office from August 2007 to January 2011.
Mr. Dufrene began his career with the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1991 as a Veterans Claims Examiner at the New Orleans VA Regional Office. Mr. Dufrene has held various positions in the Veterans Service Center, including a Senior Authorizer, Rating Specialist and first-line supervisor for 9 plus years in multiple claims processing models. Mr. Dufrene is an alumnus of Leadership VA (2008).
Mr. Dufrene was born in New Orleans, LA. He was raised in Southeastern Louisiana and graduated from the University of New Orleans with a B.S. Degree in Finance and a Masters in Business Administration. In his spare time Mr. Dufrene enjoys spending time with this family, attending and viewing Houston and LSU sports, grilling, reading and exercising.