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Recap – Press Call to Discuss Secretary McDonald’s Disney Comments

By Emilye Bell

Recap – Press Call to Discuss Secretary McDonald’s Disney Comments

Concerned Veterans for America hosted a press call Tuesday to discuss VA Secretary Bob McDonald’s comments at a breakfast Monday. As you have most likely heard, the secretary stated Disney does not use wait times as a measure of success, but rather customer satisfaction with the experience, and neither should the VA. No surprise, this statement created an uproar. Dan Caldwell, CVA’s vice president for political and legislative action, pointed out that this statement is not an isolated gaffe, but rather part of a pattern of disrespect to the veteran community, lack of interest in hospital wait times and part of a larger problem with the VA’s culture.

It is no secret that Secretary McDonald has a history of misrepresenting facts or blatantly lying, as well as making statements that are plain ridiculous, such as this one. The number of firings have not been even close to the number he has claimed, benefit processing continues to be staggeringly backlogged, and VA officials continue to pay little attention to root causes of serious problems. Caldwell said that Secretary McDonald views the wait times as an optics issue for the VA instead of an issue that seriously threatens the health of veterans. This is why Secretary McDonald is an ineffective leader.

As Caldwell noted in the press call, these statements are indicative of the toxic culture at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The corrosive culture is perpetuated by the lack of leadership and integrity from the top down, not just from Secretary McDonald, but also Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson. Concerned Veterans for America would thus urge the next president to appoint a new VA secretary.

Caldwell mentioned that both the private and public sector are full of leaders who would make solid candidates for the job, and former military leaders and medical professionals would be great contributors to the culture. There are so many intellectual resources that can team up to fix these VA problems, and measures Congress can take to provide the tools these men and women need to “shake up the VA.”

This is not about Republicans or Democrats. This is not about dismantling or defunding the VA. To say it is either is to distract from the serious issues that veterans are facing – unprocessed claims and months-long wait lists to see a doctor. This is about giving veterans the care they have earned and respecting their struggles.