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Monday, December 6, 2021

VA Chief: Open mouth, insert foot

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In this photo taken Feb. 25, 206, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald speaks in Washington. Republicans are criticizing McDonald after he compared wait times to receive VA health care to the hours people wait for rides at Disney theme parks. McDonald has told reporters on Monday, May 23, 2016,  that the VA should not use wait times as a measure of success because Disney doesn't either. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald. Republicans are criticizing McDonald for comparing wait times to receive VA health care to waits for rides at Disney theme parks. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald said Tuesday he regrets remarks he made comparing long wait times at VA health care sites to waiting in line at a Disney amusement park.

“It was never my intention to suggest that I don’t take our mission of serving veterans very seriously,” McDonald said in a written statement. “If my comments Monday led any veterans to believe that I, or the dedicated workforce I am privileged to lead, don’t take that noble mission seriously, I deeply regret that. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

McDonald’s statement came after a Republican senator called for his resignation and GOP lawmakers and veterans’ service groups slammed his remarks as insulting and inappropriate.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said McDonald’s “preposterous statement is right out of Never Never Land” and said the VA leader has shown he cannot ensure that veterans receive health care in a timely manner

“Dismissing wait times when veterans can often wait months for an appointment is negligent and a clear sign that new leadership is needed at the VA,” Blunt said as he called for McDonald to step down.

McDonald said at a breakfast Monday that the VA should not use wait times as a measure of success, comparing waits for VA health care to the hours people wait for rides at Disney theme parks. McDonald said a veterans’ health-care experience was more important than the time spend waiting for an appointment.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called McDonald’s comments “disgusting and beyond the pale,” although he stopped short of calling for him to step down.

“This is not make-believe. This is not Disneyland, or Wonderland, for that matter,” Ryan told reporters. “Veterans have died waiting in line for their care.”

Republicans said McDonald’s comments were especially egregious since he took office in 2014 after his predecessor was forced out amid a scandal over chronically long wait times at VA health care sites and reports that as many as 40 patients died while awaiting care at the Phoenix VA hospital. Similar problems were discovered at VA health sites nationwide, along with a widespread practice among VA employees of creating secret lists to cover up the long wait times and receive VA bonuses.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, a member of the Republican leadership, said McDonald’s comments were hard to believe. “When you go to Disneyland, you aren’t wondering if you are going to live long enough to make it to Space Mountain,” she said.

Democrats called Blunt’s comment a blatant bid to boost his re-election chances.

“Senator Blunt of all people should know another resignation at the VA will likely only make things worse,” said Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, Blunt’s likely Democratic challenger.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who is known for his own verbal miscues, supported McDonald.

Referring to himself as “an expert at wrong choice of words,” Reid said McDonald “could have done a better job talking about Disneyland, but he didn’t. He is a good man, he’s doing his best under very, very difficult circumstances. So I support Secretary McDonald all the way.”


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1 thought on “VA Chief: Open mouth, insert foot”

  1. I am a veteran currently using the VA Healthcare System and I have a different view than most. I am now over 65 and had been using Medicare for my health needs. There are similarities between the VA system and Medicare. With Medicare I received only the care that was covered and no more. This also limited the medications covered. The wait times for appointments was also similar and frustrating. I finally signed up for the VA system and am very pleased with my level of care as it is more complete. The VA doesn’t restrict the treatment based on insurance coverage as I had with Medicare. I haven’t had any of the issues I hear about concerning waiting for appointments and the staff has been extremely accommodating and friendly. I am sure with the massive patient load carried by each facility, that my experience isn’t the same for everyone. I am positive though that if you measure the value of Medicare and the VA Healthcare System you will find Medicare to be a resounding loser for those over 65.

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