Obama to nominate McDonald for Secretary of Veterans Affairs post

6/29/2014

By RICHARD SIMON

By RICHARD SIMON

and KATHLEEN HENNESSEY

Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (MCT) — President Barack Obama intends to nominate Robert A. McDonald, a former chief executive of Procter & Gamble, as secretary of Veterans Affairs. McDonald, a West Point graduate with business experience, would be in charge of turning around a department that has come under scrutiny for failing to provide timely health care to veterans and for covering up long waits for medical appointments.

If confirmed by the Senate, McDonald would succeed Eric Shinseki, a retired four-star general who retired during the health-care scandal, and Sloan Gibson, who has been acting VA secretary.

A White House official, who told of Obama's plan to nominate McDonald on Monday, said the former corporate executive's 33-year tenure at P&G "prepares him well for a huge agency with management challenges in servicing more than 8 million veterans a year."

At P&G he oversaw more than 120,000 employees with operations around the world, selling products in more than 180 countries and in more than 2.5 million stores, reaching more than 5 billion customers, according to the White House.

McDonald, 61, served in the U.S. Army for five years, achieving the rank of captain in the 82nd Airborne Division, according to the White House. He retired from P&G in June 2013.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, plans to meet with McDonald next week.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, said McDonald faces the daunting challenge of trying to turn around a VA "under a specter of corruption that may very well surpass anything in the history of American government."

VA critics have suggested that VA managers ordered subordinates to manipulate the supposed time veterans had to wait to see a doctor so that the managers could qualify for bonuses.

"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. "Quite simply, those who created the VA scandal will need to be purged from the system."

Miller, who has complained about VA's failure to respond to his committee's requests for information, said the new secretary also will need to focus 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."

Dan Dellinger, national commander of the 2.4 million-member American Legion, said he was encouraged to hear that Obama plans to nominate a new VA secretary.

"The VA needs a permanent secretary soon as possible to oversee the restructuring necessary to guarantee that our veterans receive the care they have earned in a timely manner,'' he said.

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