Shaheen meets privately with VA secretary nominee McDonald
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen met privately yesterday with the president’s nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned amid pressure in May after reports of mismanagement and faulty recording that led to long wait times at VA hospitals, sometimes resulting in veteran deaths.
President Obama announced Robert McDonald as his nominee June 30 and McDonald has met with several senators since. McDonald is a former chief executive officer of Procter & Gamble who served five years as a U.S. Army captain.
During the meeting in her office, Shaheen discussed with McDonald the need for sweeping reforms at the VA and the care of New Hampshire veterans, who do not have an in-state full-service VA hospital, according to a release from her office. Shaheen and U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte have been pushing for a law that would allow veterans who don’t live within 20 miles of a full-service VA hospital to receive care at other hospitals.
In a statement, Shaheen said she thinks McDonald’s role as a former CEO gives him the necessary management skills to fix the VA’s problems.
“I believe Mr. McDonald’s leadership background and management skills as a former CEO will translate well into reforming the corrosive problems at the VA. I am eager to work with him on fixing the serious problems veterans in New Hampshire and across the country have faced,” she said.
Shaheen also reiterated her call for the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the VA reform bill authored by Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent. The bill passed the Senate but the House has not taken a vote.
Veterans’ issues have become a central piece of the U.S. Senate campaign. Shaheen has repeatedly highlighted her own work to help veterans in New Hampshire, while her Republican opponents Jim Rubens and Scott Brown say she hasn’t done enough. During her 2008 campaign for U.S. Senate, Shaheen attacked then-Sen. John E. Sununu for not bringing a full-service VA hospital to New Hampshire, yet in her six years in the Senate she has not done so either. Rubens has said that both Shaheen and Brown, who was in the Senate from 2010 to 2012, could have taken steps earlier to address problems at the VA. Rubens has called for a voucher program that would allow veterans on wait lists for care to get treatment at a hospital of their choosing.
(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kronayne.)