VA Secretary: Mission Impossible?

Your mission Robert, should you decide to accept it, will be to fix the Department of Veterans Affairs…

It’s time to play the Mission Impossible theme song.

President Barack Obama nominated former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald to take over the Department of Veterans Affairs.

McDonald is a veteran, which is a good thing. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

The Associated Press reported McDonald donated money to Obama’s opponent in 2012, Mitt Romney, which shows me that Obama may be selecting who he thinks can best do the job. McDonald also donated to House Speaker John Boehner.

I asked my Congressman, Steve Daines, via Twitter if he knew Robert McDonald from his Procter & Gamble days, but I have yet to receive a response.

U.S. Senator Jon Tester, who is a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, issued a press release regarding the McDonald nomination:

The VA needs a strong leader who will put veterans first by increasing access to care and rebuilding the public’s trust. I look forward to hearing Mr. McDonald’s ideas about how to increase transparency at the VA and deliver the high-quality, timely health care and benefits that our nation’s veterans have earned.

McDonald will have to be approved by the U.S. Senate and this should happen quickly – I would like to see it happen before the August recess, but that may be dreaming.

To succeed, McDonald will need to be able to fire people. Employees at the VA need to feel that job performance means something, and that it is more important than their civil service career status.

Several years ago a VA secretary who was visiting Montana told me about his friend who was a disabled veteran. The veteran was spending a lot of his retirement years traveling around the country, so the VA Secretary told him when he stopped at VA hospitals and clinics to get his healthcare, prescriptions, etc., to let him know how he was treated. It gave the Secretary an insight that was not clouded by the VA bureaucracy.

McDonald needs a few veterans working for him that he can trust to give him the facts about the VA.

McDonald needs to look at allowing veterans to use civilian clinics and hospitals. He needs to place a moratorium on building new clinics and hospitals and entering into new leases. He needs to concentrate on the actual healthcare of veterans, not bricks and mortar.

He will have to regain veterans’ trust. This can be done several ways, but the best way to regain the trust is with action – and with face to face interaction with veterans.

The most important thing McDonald can do is get back to basics, and he can do that by following the VA motto:

“To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” -President Abraham Lincoln (March 4, 1865)


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