President Obama intends to nominate a former executive at Procter and Gamble to be the next Veterans Affairs secretary, according to top members of Congress on veterans issues.
Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, said Sunday that he looks forward to working with the president's pick – Bob McDonald, the former chief executive officer at Procter and Gamble – if he is confirmed by the Senate.
"The VA needs significantly improved transparency and accountability and it needs an increased number of doctors, nurses and other medical staff so that all eligible veterans get high-quality health care in a timely manner," said Mr. Sanders, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. "I look forward to meeting with Mr. McDonald next week in order to ascertain his views on these important issues."
Mr. McDonald, 61, led Procter and Gamble from 2009 to 2013, though he worked for the company for 33 years. The Chicago-area native graduated at the top of his class from West Point and served in the Army for five years after graduation, rising to the rank of captain, according to his biography at the company.
Rep. Jeff Miller, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said Mr. McDonald would inherit a department so corrupt that it "may surpass anything in the history of American government."
"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," Mr. Miller said. "Those who created the VA scandal will need to be purged from the system."
Mr. Miller also said Mr. McDonald will need to "take the opposite approach" of other VA leaders if he hopes to truly fix problems at the long-troubled department.
"That means focusing 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," he said.
The announcement comes just days after an investigation, lead by Mr. Obama's deputy chief of staff, Rob Nabors, and acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson, identified "significant and chronic failures" that have yet to be fixed at the Veterans Affairs Department.
The Senate will still need to ok the president's pick. Both chambers of Congress left Washington on Friday for a week-long Fourth of July break and only have a handful of legislative days left before a month-long recess in August to get the new secretary confirmed.
If approved, Mr. McDonald would replace Mr. Gibson, who took the reigns after Eric Shinseki stepped down at the end of May.
Veterans of Foreign Wars declined to comment on the nomination.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has not yet released a statement on Mr. McDonald, but had previously called for the next secretary to be a veteran of recent conflicts.
The department's problems were first exposed earlier this year when a whistleblower revealed that at least 40 veterans died at a Phoenix VA facility while awaiting care after employees cooked the books to make wait times appear shorter and secure bonuses. Since then, both internal and independent investigations have found systemic problems throughout the VA system of data manipulation, poor care and retaliation against whistleblowers.
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