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Houston Regional Office

Meet Our Leadership Team


J. M. Hedge

Director: Robert M. Worley II

Robert M. Worley II was appointed Executive Director of the Houston Regional Office Nov 11, 2018. In this capacity, Mr. Worley provides executive level oversight of the delivery of compensation, Veteran readiness & employment, and loan guaranty benefits to approximately 900,000 Veterans in the southern Texas region.

Prior to joining the VA in 2012, Mr. Worley served as the Director of Programs, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Programs, Headquarters Air Force, Washington, D.C. In this capacity, Mr. Worley was responsible for developing, integrating, and analyzing the Air Force future budget program of $600B across the Future Years Defense Program.

Mr. Worley has held numerous leadership positions leading military space operations to include intercontinental ballistic missile, satellite command/control, space surveillance, missile warning, and satellite launch operations. He retired from the United States Air Force in the grade of Major General in 2011.  His military decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal and the Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters.  His civilian awards include the Distinguished Presidential Rank Award for 2017.

Career Chronology:

5/2001–6/2003     Commander, 30th Space Wing, and Director of the Western Test Range, Vandenberg AFB, CA.

6/2003–6/2005     Director of Mission Support, Headquarters Air Force Space Command, Peterson AFB, CO.

6/2005–3/2007     Director of Strategic Plans, Programs, Analysis, Assessment and Lessons Learned, Headquarters Air Force Space Command, Peterson AFB, CO.

3/2007–9/2011     Deputy Director and Director of Programs, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Programs, Headquarters Air Force, Washington, D.C.

3/2012-1/2019     Executive Director, Education Service, Veterans Benefits Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs

Emile Dufrene

Assistant Director: Emile Dufrene

Emile Dufrene was appointed to this position in July 2019. 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 this appointment, Mr. Dufrene was the Veterans Service Center Manager of the Houston VA Regional Office (RO) from January 2011. During his tenure as the Veterans Service Center Manager, Mr. Dufrene 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.


Assistant Director: Ronald Miesemer

Ronald Miesemer was appointed to this position in July 2020. 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 this appointment, Mr. Miesemer served as an Assistant Veterans Service Center Manager at the Lincoln VA Regional Office.

Mr. Miesemer began his career with the Department of Veterans Affairs as a Veterans Service Representative at the Sioux Falls Regional Office. He served in many positions of increased responsibility and leadership over the years.

Prior to joining the Department of Veterans Affairs, Mr. Miesemer served in the United States Navy and United States Navy Reserve. He held the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer and retired with 24 years of service.

Career Chronology:

2016–2020    Assistant Veterans Service Center Manager, Lincoln RO

2013–2016    Assistant Director, Compensation Service

2012–2013    Deputy Director, Office of Strategic Planning

2010–2012    Assistant Veterans Service Center Manager, Muskogee RO

2007–2010    Management Analyst, Central Area Office

2004–2007    Management Analyst, Dakotas RO

2001–2004    Veterans Service Representative, Sioux Falls RO


2014    Harvard Senior Executive Fellows Program

2003    Masters Business Administration, University of Sioux Falls

1997    Bachelors of Arts, Management, University of Sioux Falls

Military Assignments:

1999–2007    Naval Reserve Center Sioux Falls, United States Navy Reserve

1995–1998    Naval Reserve Center Sioux Falls, United States Navy

1992–1995    Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Unit 203, United States Navy

1988–1992    Naval Amphibious School Little Creek, United States Navy

1984–1988    USS Fairfax County (LST-1193), United States Navy

Kelly Shupak

Veteran Readiness and Employment Officer: Kelly Shupak

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.


Veterans Service Center Manager: Sharon S. Smith

Sharon Smith is a Veterans Service Center Manager (VSCM) for the Department of Veterans Affairs in the Veteran Service Center (VSC) at the Houston Regional Office. She was promoted to VSCM in November 2022. She currently oversees approximately 600 employees with an overview of all VSC operations to include the Satellite office of San Antonio. She is currently working with her management staff to ensure consistency, communication, and collaboration throughout the VSC. These 3 attributes are the main part of Mrs. Smith’s Leadership philosophy. Ms. Smith has facilitated several tools locally such as the WARTAC Employees Program (WEP), Quality roundtable discussions (QRD), Shadowing to Achieve Readiness Program (STAR), and Tackle-It-Tuesday to name a few. In fiscal year 2023, the Houston Regional Office won the Federal Executive Board award for diversity, the Customer Experience Award for Quality teams and the OTED Award Public Contact award.

In Philadelphia as an AVSCM in November 2020, she was responsible for 400 employees. She is an avid trainer to include teaching new and experienced Coaches through local training, BWLDP and SMT programs. Mrs. Smith was a Leadership Enhancement and Development Program (LEAP) graduate in 2018 after being acting Veterans Service Center Manager in Hartford. She also completed a detail in Central Office for the implementation of VIP Training.

She was promoted to Supervisory Veteran Service Representative (Coach) in January 2014 and remained a Coach for six years. She began her supervisory career supervising a production team that included VSRs and RVSRs, keeping the average days pending under 125 days, ending fiscal year 2015 at 79 days average. At the same time, maintaining all production standards for development, authorization, and rating. In 2015, she received a Quality Step Increase (QSI) for her work as a production supervisor. She became the Quality Supervisor for 2 years (2015 and 2016) where she learned more about the aspects of quality, maintaining trainings to include implementation of board discussions, the Clear and Unmistakable Error (CUE) tracker and the new Quality Review Team (QRT) SharePoint site. She gained valuable insight into quality assurance and aided the QRT with the implementation of the Quality Management System (QMS).

Mrs. Smith joined VBA as a Veterans Service Representative (VSR) at the Philadelphia RO in January 2008. She progressed to a Rating Veteran Service Representative (RVSR) in 2010. For 2 years, (2011 and 2012) Mrs. Smith regularly worked at Baltimore Regional Office and Seattle Regional Office as a Rating Challenge Instructor. She also volunteered as a Specialized Adjudication Review Course (SPARC) Instructor in 2014. As a challenge and SPARC instructor, she was able to deliver instruction to VBA students, improving delivery of quality decisions.

Mrs. Smith earned a Bachelor’s in Business management and a Master’s in Business Administration from University of Phoenix.