Senate Unanimously Confirms McDonald as VA Secretary
On Tuesday, the Senate voted 97-0 to confirm Robert McDonald as secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The confirmation came one day after congressional negotiators unveiled legislation to address the long wait times for VA care (Kesling, Wall Street Journal, 7/29).
President Obama nominated McDonald -- a West Point graduate and former Procter & Gamble CEO -- on June 30 (Hicks, "The Fed Page," Washington Post, 7/29).
McDonald replaces acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson, who had taken over the post in May after Eric Shinseki resigned following revelations that many veterans faced long wait times at various VA health centers, which likely led to a number of deaths.
Obama in a statement said, "As a veteran himself and a proud member of a military family, [McDonald] is deeply committed to serving our veterans and their families. And as an executive with decades of private-sector experience, he is uniquely equipped to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs and to help change the way the VA does business" (Wall Street Journal, 7/29).
Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said McDonald will "bring the tools of a CEO in a private corporation to the VA, a huge bureaucracy which needs significant improvement in accountability and management" ("The Fed Page," Washington Post, 7/29).
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said that McDonald "is the type of leader we need at the VA at this very crucial time," adding, "He clearly has the experience to run an organization as large and as diverse as the Department of Veterans Affairs" (Oppel, New York Times, 7/29).
Challenges Ahead, Promises To Keep
According to the Washington Post's "Federal Eye," McDonald during his confirmation hearing promised to take several actions during his first 90 days as VA secretary, including working to:
- Better ensure the accuracy and timeliness of VA data to assist with decision-making and oversight;
- Develop a system to reward VA whistleblowers for reporting legitimate issues;
- Enhance and expand the agency's use of technology;
- Establish a physician board to advise VA on best practices for care delivery;
- Improve communication and collaboration between the VA headquarters and regional VA offices;
- Review agency staffing levels to improve access to care and increase productivity;
- Reorganize VA to better forecast and implement care delivery trends;
- Renew VA's strategic plan, review agency processes and articulate a leadership vision to all VA employees; and
- Work to improve data sharing between VA and the Department of Defense (Hicks, "Federal Eye," Washington Post, 7/30).