Republicans warned Sunday that President Barack Obama’s next secretary of Veterans Affairs has a huge task ahead that involves a radical change in the culture at VA, which has spent years working to cover up its failure to deliver health care services to veterans.
Obama intends to nomination Robert McDonald on Monday to lead the VA. McDonald is a West Point graduate, was CEO of Procter & Gamble from 2009 to 2013, and grew up in Chicago, where Obama taught constitutional law and was a community organizer.
While Republicans in the House indicated support for any outside to come in and fix the broken VA, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) warned that McDonald will only be able to succeed if President Obama himself commits to real change at the embattled agency.
“[T]he 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,” Boehner said. “Our nation’s veterans deserve nothing less.”
Boehner called McDonald a “good man” with the right experience to help heal the VA. But House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) said McDonald has a huge task ahead of him.
“If confirmed by the Senate, Robert 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,” he said. “In order to pave the way for serious and substantive reforms that will help VA to effectively deliver the care and benefits our veterans have earned, he’ll need 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.”
Miller said McDonald will have to fire those who contributed to the healthcare scandal, but also focus on the VA’s main mission of delivering benefits to veterans.
“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,” he said.
The Senate is the body that will have to confirm him, and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) indicated the Senate would start moving after the July 4 break to confirm him.
“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.”