Obama Goes Outside Military Brass, Medical Community for New VA Chief
Robert McDonald, former CEO of Procter & Gamble, is President Barack Obama’s nominee to run the scandal-ridden Department of Veterans Affairs.
McDonald’s nomination is catching some in the veterans’ community off-guard. Unlike previous VA Secretaries, he’s not a general – though he did graduate from West Point and serve for five years as an Army paratrooper before jumping to P&G.
He’s also neither a medical doctor, nor does he have experience administering a hospital; traits that some think would be useful for a person stepping into the nation’s largest health system with 1,700 facilities.
Indeed, the case being made for McDonald is that his background in brand management and customer service signals that Obama thinks the main problem at the VA is bad leadership.
Which brings us to an interesting question – Is McDonald’s job just to make the VA’s public face more attractive, or is it to get the sprawling department into tip-top, customer satisfaction shape?
The answer depends on how much latitude President Obama is giving McDonald to operate. For example, in places like Phoenix where staff and administrators falsified records to get performance bonuses, does McDonald have the authority to fire and hire political appointees as well as career civil servants? Does he have the flexibility to outsource patients to private medical providers in regions where the VA hospitals are overbooked?
Senate Republicans should ask McDonald these and other questions during his confirmation hearings. Veterans and their families deserve to know whether the VA’s new chief has the power to be a turnaround artist, or just a place warmer.