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VA Secretary Nominee Promises Transformation in First 90 Days

It's not just the waitlist scandal McDonald stands to inherit, but the appointment backlog.

by
Bill Straub

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July 22, 2014 - 4:58 pm
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WASHINGTON – President Obama’s choice to run the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs acknowledged that the agency remains plagued by ongoing systematic failures that merit immediate action.

Robert McDonald, the former CEO of consumer products giant Procter & Gamble, told members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee during his confirmation hearing on Tuesday that “the department’s problems with access, transparency, accountability and integrity have been well documented.”

If confirmed, McDonald vowed to take a series of steps over the first 90 days to “transform” the department and “deliver the needed reforms our veterans deserve.”

“I will put the veterans at the center of all we do, consistent with our mission,” he said.

“The department has made great strides in serving veterans thanks to the commitment of many dedicated employees and hard work with our partners and advocates in the community,” McDonald said. “But the VA is in crisis. The veterans are in need. There is much to do. I can think of no higher calling than to serve our veterans who have so selflessly served our country.”

It appeared from the reception that McDonald received from lawmakers that his campaign to assume the post of secretary of Veterans’ Affairs will face little opposition. Several Republican committee members, including Sen. Jerry Moran, of Kansas, expressed their support.

Moran praised McDonald, a U.S. Army veteran, for his “candor, sincerity and commitment to serving our nation’s veterans.”

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who likewise indicated McDonald has successfully recruited his vote, said the nominee “must usher in a new culture throughout VA.” He further urged McDonald to resolve all systematic problems.

“Although VA has started taking steps to improve access to care, much more work is needed to understand and resolve the full scope of issues facing VA healthcare,” Burr said. “The ongoing internal evaluation by VA and investigations by other offices will be critical in that effort. As the head of VA, Mr. McDonald, it will be essential that you embrace the findings of these investigations and urgently work to bring about needed reforms.”

Burr told McDonald that his job will be to “ensure that this entire department — from top to bottom — is re-focused on providing our nation’s veterans with the high-quality service they have earned and they deserve.”

The VA has been under siege for several weeks in the wake of a critical report issued by the agency’s inspector general finding that 40 patients, former servicemen, died awaiting care at a Phoenix facility. It was determined that employees there kept a secret list of patients who faced prolonged delays in receiving treatment. Investigators suggested those VA workers concealed the actual wait times in hopes of enhancing the perception of the facility’s performance.

Similar problems were uncovered at other VA medical facilities that serve almost 9 million veterans. Former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned as a result. McDonald, if confirmed, will replace Sloan Gibson, who has been serving in an acting capacity.

An audit released in June by the Department of Veterans Affairs revealed that more than 57,000 veterans nationwide have been forced to wait 90 days or more for medical appointments at the agency’s facilities. About 64,000 more were included on the agency’s electronic waiting list for doctor appointments. The VA’s stated goal is to arrange appointments within two weeks or less.

The audit scanned more than 730 VA hospitals and clinics and determined that supervisors were encouraging clerks to falsify records in 13 percent of cases.

Top Rated Comments   
They are bureaucrats. They are unaccountable. Period.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
My friend, Green Beret/Delta Force, was hit by IED and then after recovering was later shot in Afghanistan. He was in the mountains and had to drink his own pee for fluid for goodness sake. He was diagnosed at Phoenix VA hospital for an injury related problem. They told him no treatment was available for his condition and he would die within 1-5 years. He has been spending money out of pocket to go to a neuro-surgical specialty center. Two surgeries later, prognosis is great. But he's financially hurt big time. Friends and family are helping, we've got his back. This VA issue is just pathetic. They were going to let him literally walk around with a bomb on his brain stem. I'm so sick of all the talking in DC I could puke.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
If McDonald doesn't seek criminal investigation authorization in the first week in office, he will have failed. The problems are not "bad apples" or "funding" or a "corrosive culture". The problem is that the VA has evolved a CRIMINAL culture. Resolution must include indictments. Otherwise the perpetrators will simply burrow in until he eventually leave.

They ALL eventually leave.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (11)
All Comments   (11)
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90 days?


He's either lying through his teeth, or he's clueless.

The union, civil service rules, and color protections will prevent him from doing anything meaningful in 90 months, let alone 90 days.

Until it's possible to fire lots and lots of people, without it taking years to finally get them off the payroll, and without said fired persons getting a full pension, all talk of reform is just hot air.

7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sometimes these guys coming out of industry think it's just a matter of will and operating the levers properly. They don't understand that the SEIU took the levers off and installed blind faceplates.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
I am as certain Mr. McDonald intends real change as I am sure he will fail. P&G is a well run old line company. It is performant, makes decent money for its shareholders and delivers a hell of a lot of good quality products, has done for decades, and did so under his leadership. McDonald is competent to run a major business, likely as or more complex than the VA.

He will fail spectacularly because he has not one single tool that he would have had in private enterprise save for his own estimable intelligence and skill. That just isn't enough when you can't fire anyone.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've become a cynic...

90 days becomes 90 days after I've taken charge.
Then it becomes 90 days after I've figured out what's really wrong.
Then it becomes... well, after the election, and "what does it matter, anyway?"
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
My friend, Green Beret/Delta Force, was hit by IED and then after recovering was later shot in Afghanistan. He was in the mountains and had to drink his own pee for fluid for goodness sake. He was diagnosed at Phoenix VA hospital for an injury related problem. They told him no treatment was available for his condition and he would die within 1-5 years. He has been spending money out of pocket to go to a neuro-surgical specialty center. Two surgeries later, prognosis is great. But he's financially hurt big time. Friends and family are helping, we've got his back. This VA issue is just pathetic. They were going to let him literally walk around with a bomb on his brain stem. I'm so sick of all the talking in DC I could puke.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
If McDonald doesn't seek criminal investigation authorization in the first week in office, he will have failed. The problems are not "bad apples" or "funding" or a "corrosive culture". The problem is that the VA has evolved a CRIMINAL culture. Resolution must include indictments. Otherwise the perpetrators will simply burrow in until he eventually leave.

They ALL eventually leave.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
They are bureaucrats. They are unaccountable. Period.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
The agency schedules about 236,000 healthcare appointments every day — approximately 85 per year.

Really? They schedule 236 THOUSAND appointments every day? And somehow they only schedule EIGHT-FIVE appointments per YEAR? How does a boner like this pass anyone's proof-reading? Or does it just go straight online with nary a second glance?
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
They only counted the annual appointments where someone obtained useful medical care.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Chill. It's 85 million.

And no, of course PJM doesn't have editing worth the name. You haven't been around here before?
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've been around a while. I just don't recall an error quite so obvious - aside from typos - before. You'd think anyone writing or proofreading this would realize how illogical it is to talk about 236,000 appointments a day only adding up to 85 in a year.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
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