President Obama has announced his new pick to lead the scandal-ridden Department of Veterans Affairs. According to the Associated Press, his choice is former Procter and Gamble executive Robert McDonald. The AP reports that McDonald, while a business executive, also has a military background, “graduating near the top of his class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and serving as a captain in the Army, primarily in the 82nd Airborne Division.”
This is a great step for the VA. The business-style leadership that McDonald brings from his thirty-three years the private sector is exactly what the VA needs.
McDonald led Procter & Gamble from 2009 to 2013. During that time, the company website states:
P&G realized annual sales of over $84 billion. The company had more than 120,000 employees, 120 plants and 200 brands in 35 categories, of which 25 brands generate over $1 billion in sales each year.
According to Businessweek, Speaker Boehner immediately embraced the idea of McDonald at the helm, saying the former executive is “the kind of person who is capable of implementing the kind of dramatic systemic change that is badly needed and long overdue at the VA.”
The bipartisan appeal of McDonald is especially important considering the damning report released by the administration on Friday detailing the extent of what has been discovered at the VA thus far. Part of the report states:
One VA audit found that 10 percent of veterans seeking medical care at VA hospitals and clinics have to wait at least 30 days for an appointment. More than 56,000 veterans have had to wait at least three months for initial appointments, the report said, and an additional 46,000 veterans who asked for appointments over the past decade never got them.
The report also mentions a trend of backlash that many whistleblowers faced:
One-fourth of all the whistleblower cases under review across the federal government come from the VA. The department “encourages discontent and backlash against employees.
In addition, whistleblowers have come forward with unbelievable stories of cruelty and inhuman conduct against vets:
“When the facility put the same female patient under restraints for 49 continuous hours in February, as a convenience to doctors who wanted to enjoy their holiday weekend, none of the nurses wanted to speak up,” Ms. Riviello said.
And while the hospital spokesperson said they encourage whistleblower reports, Mrs. Riviello disagrees:
“I feel like I’ve been humiliated and it’s tarnished,” she said. “Sitting at a desk eight hours a day doing a project that is something to keep me away from the clinical arena, it’s too much.”
Let’s hope McDonald will be able to use his executive business experience to sort through this mess and hold the guilty accountable.