07.29.14

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy on The Confirmation of Robert McDonald to be VA Secretary

Mr. President, as we have learned over the past several months, there has been a clear and inexcusable lack of well-earned quality care and timely service provided to many veterans who depend on it from the Department of Veterans Affairs. I hope that the confirmation of Robert McDonald as VA Secretary will be the next step forward in ensuring that our veterans and their families receive the benefits, compensation and support services they rightfully deserve. While I continue to recognize the hard work and commitment of the many men and women working in the VA system, the broader organizational culture has failed to harness and strengthen individual efforts in order to fulfill our promises to men and women that serve and their families.

When he assumes his new post, Robert McDonald will have his work cut out for him at the VA, and he must lead the Department’s deep soul-searching. It is my hope that his management experience at Procter & Gamble, including his experience addressing inefficiencies in a corporate entity, will make him the right man for the job.  The replacement of a Cabinet secretary alone does not increase accountability, nor does it reform the underlying problems that enabled the environment we now find ourselves in.  These foundational reforms must take place throughout the management of the VA system, and they must address long-term, as well as short-term, challenges.

I was also pleased to hear that after many rounds of negotiations, Senator Sanders and his counterpart in the House have finally reached a compromise that addresses many of these needed reforms.  I commend them both, and I hope this legislation will be swiftly brought to the Senate and House floors and then signed by President Obama, so we can get back on track in serving our veterans as they so honorably have served our Nation. I look forward to working with the future Secretary McDonald to ensure that timely access to quality care for our veterans and their families is the ultimate priority of the VA.

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