New VA Nominee McDonald has Major Challenges Ahead, Congress Warns

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: July 1, 2014 3:55 AM
Robert McDonald

Robert McDonald

On Monday, President Barack Obama named Robert McDonald as his nominee to head up the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. 

In recent weeks, the department has been reeling after reports emerged that VA medical facilities across the nation were using altered wait lists leading veterans to believe they would be treated quicker than they in fact could be served. The national media reported in recent weeks that 40 veterans died waiting for care while on altered wait lists in the Phoenix, Ariz., area. After these reports emerged, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki was forced to resign at the end of May.

A graduate of West Point, McDonald rose to the rank of captain, serving in the 82nd Airborne. After his time in the military, McDonald worked for Proctor & Gamble for three decades, rising to become president, chairman and CEO of that company. McDonald has supported Republicans in recent elections, contributing to former Gov. Mitt Romney’s, R-Mass., presidential bid and to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Boehner praised McDonald but warned there will be challenges in the days to come.

"Bob McDonald is a good man, a veteran, and a strong leader with decades of experience in the private sector,” Boehner said. “With those traits, he's the kind of person who is capable of implementing the kind of dramatic systemic change that is badly needed and long overdue at the VA. But the next VA secretary can only succeed in implementing that type of change if his boss, the president, first commits to doing whatever it takes to give our veterans the world class health-care system they deserve by articulating a vision for sweeping reform. Our nation's veterans deserve nothing less."

U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, insisted that, if the Senate confirms him, “McDonald will inherit a Department of Veterans Affairs under a specter of corruption that may very well surpass anything in the history of American government.” Miller called for McDonald “to root out the culture of dishonesty and fraud that has taken hold within the department and is contributing to all of its most pressing challenges” and back major reforms.

“Quite simply, those who created the VA scandal will need to be purged from the system,” Miller said. “Personnel changes, however, won’t be enough. The only way McDonald can set the department up for long-term success is to take the opposite approach of some other VA senior leaders. That means focusing on solving problems instead of downplaying or hiding them, holding employees accountable for mismanagement and negligence that harms veterans, and understanding that taxpayer-funded organizations such as VA have a responsibility to provide information to Congress and the public rather than stonewalling them.”

On the Senate side, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the chairman of the Veteran Affairs Committee, called for McDonald to add more medical personnel.

“The VA needs significantly improved transparency and accountability and it needs an increased number of doctors, nurses and other medical staff so that all eligible veterans get high-quality health care in a timely manner,” Sanders said. “I look forward to meeting with Mr. McDonald next week in order to ascertain his views on these important issues.”

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.


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