What is a onetime Army Ranger and a former CEO of a Fortune 500 company going to do in a Veterans Affairs Department? It has yet to be seen, but Robert McDonald faces a daunting task of righting the wrong in the scandal-riddled department.
Nominated by President Barack Obama, McDonald may lead the VA group, but veterans are skeptical about his qualifications. They state that he may have trouble adjusting to the nitty gritty political details and bureaucracy of the 300,000 employees that make up the department.
The VA Department is comprised of hundreds of hospital directors and other executives that are sitting quite comfortable at the top of the group’s food chain, far away from the agency’s Washington headquarters and therefore are not monitored as much as they should be.
To understand the fraud underlying the group, from 2003 to 2012, the VA healthcare funding increased by 106%, while the number of patients increased by only 30%. Where did all the funding money go? Other scandals include putting patients on secret waiting lists while others are pushed to the top. At the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System, at least 40 U.S. veterans died waiting for their appointments.
A year after McDonald was forced to step down from his CEO position at Procter & Gamble, he was tapped by Obama to deal with a health care agency dealing with the reveal of falsified records and the admition of month-long waits for appointments.
“Procter & Gamble is going to feel like a Ferrari compared to the VA,” said Paul Rieckhoff, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
Obama is clearly concerned with the way the U.S. veterans are being treated in the health care department, with the White House releasing a statement accusing the VA of lacking resources and being ill-prepared to deal with the influx of new and older veterans. With a budget of $154 billion (one of the largest in the federal government), Obama was hoping that more would be done for this group of citizens.
The only glaring issue: McDonald has no direct health care experience, so it will be difficult for him to relate to the vast majority of veterans suffering disabilities and not being offered adequate care. How he got the job remains unknown, but White House officials say the President was looking for someone who has had experience leading a large organization and familiar with military culture.
After the scathing report given to the VA by the White House, the chief medical inspector for the department has retired on accusations that his office avoided complaints outlining serious problems at VA medical facilities across the nation.
As a result, Obama was urged by both parties to fill the spot quickly and, as of now, McDonald appears headed for an easy Senate confirmation.