On July 28, the US Senate confirmed the nomination of Robert McDonald as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, after a confirmation hearing held on July 22. You can watch his Congressional testimony above.
McDonald, CEO of Procter & Gamble from 2009 to 2013, stated that, “To choose the harder right, rather than the easier wrong” is his aim in approaching his new assignment.
McDonald told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee that he expects all VA employees to put the veteran “at the center of everything [they] do.”
During his first ninety days, he said, he will do the following:
- Ask all VA employees to bring forward “any information, any concerns, any problems that exist,” so that he can get a “full picture of what’s going wrong”
- Reward problem solvers
- Renew the Department’s strategic plan and ensure all employees have appropriate “action plans”
- Focus on accountability and communication by going into the field to hear from veterans and employees, and being readily accessible to the committee
- Create a Best Practices Board, drawing from within and without the VA
- Modernize and expand the use of digital technology
- Implement an integrated electronic records system.
- Work towards creating better health benefits for veterans.
Senators at the hearing debated issues related to the proposal to spend $17.6 billion over the next three years. Democrats argued that Congress should meet agency needs, while some Republicans felt that more money would not necessarily solve problems.
In response to Senators’ concerns about the shortage of mental health clinicians, McDonald promised to “find ways to meet the need.” He affirmed that “whistleblowers need support.” When asked about the VA’s “independent VISN structure,” McDonald replied, “We need a One Team/One Dream structure.”
ACSWA will continue to monitor and report on new developments within the VA.