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The FourBlock Podcast

Jan 31, 2022

On this episode of the FourBlock Podcast, we are honored to be joined by former Under Secretary for Benefits in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Army Veteran Dr. Paul R. Lawrence.

In conversation with FourBlock Founder Mike Abrams, Lawrence generously shares details of his background and upbringing, his military career and transition, and his post-military career in the private sector before giving us a behind the scenes look at his time as the Under Secretary for Benefits at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Lawrence talks about the priorities that he focused on as Under Secretary, including getting veterans the benefits they earned in a manner that honors their service, fiscal stewardship, and collaboration -- working more with veterans' stakeholders like VSOs, nonprofits, and others who wanted to help.

A businessman, author, and passionate veteran advocate with 35 years of experience solving management problems in large, complex organizations, Lawrence also shares what he continues to do to advocate for veterans today.

As a private sector executive, Lawrence was a consulting Partner at two Big-Four accounting firms and a Vice President in two Fortune 500 companies. He is a government management thought leader, having written several books on the subject.

For almost three years, Lawrence served as Under Secretary of Benefits at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, unanimously confirmed by the Senate on April 26, 2018. As Under Secretary, he was in charge of the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) leading a team of 25,000 people with an operating budget of $4 billion, administering $120 billion in benefits annually. He implemented proven business practices, streamlined the bureaucracy, and created a public presence rebranding VBA as an organization successfully supporting Veterans.

Prior to becoming a political appointee, Lawrence was a Vice President at Kaiser Associates, a Partner at Ernst & Young, a Vice President at Accenture, a Senior Director at the MITRE Corporation, a Vice President with IBM, and a Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

He has written extensively on management, government, and technology. He is the co-author of Succeeding as a Political Executive: 50 Insights from Experience, What Government Does: How Political Executives Manage, Paths to Making a Difference: Leading in Government and the co-editor of Transforming Organizations and Learning the Ropes: Insights for Political Appointees.

He serves on the Board of Directors of Vets2Industry, a non-profit organization helping Veterans pursue a career in the private sector. He is also a Senior Advisor to Search & Acquire, a non-profit focused on helping Veterans become CEOs via Entrepreneurship through Acquisition.

He was selected three times by Federal Computer Week as one of the top 100 public service leaders. In 2019 he was recognized as Government Executive of the Year by Service to the Citizen. He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration.

Lawrence earned his Master of Arts and Ph.D. in economics from Virginia Tech. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. He is an Army Veteran. He completed his ROTC requirement as an Airborne-qualified Captain.

Find Paul Lawrence on LinkedIn at

Lawrence’s book, “Transforming Service to Veterans: How I Pursued Performance Excellence at the Veterans Benefits Administration in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is available here:



Welcome to the FourBlock Podcast, a show that examines veteran career transition and the military-civilian divide in the workplace.

General Charles Krulak coined the term "Three Block War" to describe the nature of 21st-century military service defined by peace-keeping, humanitarian aid, and full combat.

But what happens next? Veterans are often unprepared to return home and begin new careers. We call this the Fourth Block. 

FourBlock is a national non-profit that has supported thousands of transitioning service members across the nation in beginning new and meaningful careers. 

Mike Abrams (@fourblock) is an Afghanistan veteran, founder of FourBlock, and author of two military transition books. He represents the military transition perspective.

Lindsey Pollak (@lindsaypollak) is a career and workplace expert and New York Times bestselling author of three career advice books. Lindsey represents the civilian perspective of this issue. 

Veterans, explore new industries and make the right connections. Find a career that fits your calling. Join us at

Sponsor our program or host a class to equip more of our veterans at

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Podcast episodes are produced and edited by the Columbia University Center for Veteran Transition and Integration.