On Monday, Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald caused a stir by comparing veterans’ wait times for healthcare to the lines at Disney theme parks. Later that day, a spokesman for Disney responded, arguing that the parks do take wait times seriously and invest a great deal to make sure they are enjoyable for customers. A conservative veterans organization also condemned McDonald’s comments, but surprisingly isn’t calling for his resignation.
At a breakfast with reporters sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, McDonald asked, “When you get to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line?” The VA secretary implied that the overall experience mattered more than wait times, and that the Department of Veterans Affairs scores highly in that regard.
In a comment to Independent Journal, the Disney spokesman answered McDonald’s question with an emphatic yes.
We take wait times very seriously. We continue to push the boundaries to give our guests the best experience possible. A large team of highly trained industrial engineers are tasked with improving our guest’s experiences, from transportation, to guest flow, to ride comfort and certainly wait times.
More importantly, Disney parks take wait times so seriously that they are reinventing the way attendees kill time before their rides. “One of the things we take great pride in is if you have a wait time at our parks, your wait is enjoyable. We call this the Disney Difference.”
At the Dumbo ride, for example, the park added “a Big Top Area for families waiting for the ride. This area is a huge, interactive, air-conditioned area for children to play in and where adults can relax with a buzzer they receive that notifies them when their spot is ready on the ride.”
This emphasis on entertaining people while in line forms a key theme in Disney parks. As the spokesperson explained, “If you wait at the Haunted Mansion there are musical tombstones that will sing to you. There is a flowing honey wall at the Winnie the Pooh ride. We designed animated crabs for The Little Mermaid waiting area which will interact with you and play games while you wait.”
“We take every facet of the guest experience very seriously,” the spokesperson added. “If you have to wait, you should have fun while doing it.”
If the VA truly wishes to copy Disney, perhaps they should spend less time talking about new ways to measure wait times and more time getting preliminary healthcare to veterans already on the list, like the way Disney gets preliminary entertainment to children and adults waiting in line.
Disney itself would likely support such a measure. “This company was founded by veterans,” the spokesperson declared. “Roy Disney was an officer in the U.S. Davey and Walt drove an ambulance in France assisting service members directly after WWI.”
Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) Vice President for Political and Legislative Action Dan Caldwell lauded the Disney statement. “Disney’s statement speaks for itself,” he told PJ Media in an email statement. “McDonald’s comments show that he’s disconnected from reality, even relying on false statements about the private sector to support his continued resistance to reforming the VA.”
“To my knowledge, no one has died recently waiting in lines for Disney rides,” Caldwell declared. “Verbal gaffes and tone-deaf remarks have consistently gotten him into hot water.”
Next Page: Why this conservative advocacy group is not calling for McDonald’s resignation.
Despite the harsh words for McDonald, CVA Vice President Caldwell said his organization is not calling for the VA secretary’s resignation, but for a more comprehensive restructuring of the federal department.
“The biggest problem with the VA … is cultural,” Caldwell said in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. “They have a really toxic culture there that does not encourage integrity or a collaborative approach to solving problems, or being transparent with the public.”
Caldwell called on the next president to reject McDonald, but emphasized that even if McDonald resigned the problem would not go away. The current VA secretary’s deputy, Sloan Gibson, “is just as bad as him.” Rather than retaining McDonald or elevating Gibson, the next president should choose a VA secretary who will institute massive reforms and “won’t be afraid of entrenched bureaucrats in Washington.”
The CVA spokesman also attacked McDonnell for repeating an oft-debunked lie about his organization which even Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have mentioned. “Secretary McDonald has accused us of wanting to abolish the VA medical system, but we’ve only called for restructuring it,” Caldwell explained. “Every veteran should have the choice to use their benefits at the VA or in the general system.”
Unfortunately, it seems McDonald has not learned from his mistakes. In an MSNBC interview on Tuesday, he refused to apologize for his statements.
VA Sec McDonald won’t apologize for his ‘Disneyland’ comments, “wait times are important, they aren’t the only measure of VA experience.”
— Luke Russert (@LukeRussert) May 24, 2016
On if he understands outrage over his ‘Disneyland’ comments, McDonald, “I’m a veteran…I came out of retirement bc I care deeply” — Luke Russert (@LukeRussert) May 24, 2016
Let us hope the next VA secretary understands why these comments were insulting, and knows when to apologize when he or she makes mistakes.