By Frank Lewis
With horror stories continuing to roll in from Veterans’ Affairs medical facilities, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced Robert McDonald, Nominee for Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, at the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on Tuesday.
“This is a distinguished patriot who is willing to step forward for his country, and I hope as we consider his nomination the right questions are asked and that we are sure we can get him there as soon as possible to provide some direction to an agency that needs it badly,” Portman said. “We just had townhall meetings all across the state of Ohio over the last several weeks. Some have to do with the healthcare side, some have to do with disability, and the long waitlists on both sides. We’ve got an opportunity in this leader to help turn this around.”
Members of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs indicated Tuesday they would endorse McDonald, President Barack Obama’s nominee to take over the VA. In a 14-0 vote, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee today approved McDonald’s nomination. He must now be confirmed through a vote by the full Senate in the coming days.
“Having talked to him, he also believes that his experience in managing and helping to reform a huge, complex organization, will come in handy,” Portman said. “One thing that Bob McDonald did at Procter (and Gamble), which was impressive, is push accountability down to every level. He also launched an effort to ensure everyone at every level feels that accountability that a CEO must feel to be able to provide a good product for consumers, and I think that’s really critical right now with our accountability issues we see at the VA.”
McDonald, a West Point graduate told questioners - “I desperately want this job because I think I can make a difference.”
In his prepared remarks he said, “For me, taking care of veterans is personal. I come from—and deeply care for—military families.”
Portman put the finishing touches on his endorsement.
“When it comes to running a big organization, he’s a world-class businessperson, but I think his experience in the military is equally important,” Portman said. “Bottom line, for Bob McDonald, this is not about a job, this is about mission. He has answered the call before to serve his country and he’s prepared to make the sacrifices to do that again and to focus like a laser on these programs in a nonpartisan way to create the kind of service that our veterans so richly deserve.”
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) also has endorsed McDonald’s nomination.
“Our commitment to our veterans must match their commitment to our nation,” Brown said. “As a West Point graduate and former CEO of Procter and Gamble, Bob McDonald possess the skills and integrity needed to be an effective leader and advocate for our nation’s veterans. The VA is faced with many hurdles that it must overcome. It’s imperative that reforms are put in place that hold senior-level VA officials accountable for mismanagement, while taking steps to address systemwide shortages in doctors and nurses. Veterans who have served this country should not have to wait to see a doctor. The VA must also continue its efforts to increase outreach to post-9/11 veterans and better address Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. These hurdles are not insurmountable and I am confident Bob McDonald will meet these challenges head-on.”
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 1928, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.