In a 97-0 vote this afternoon, the United States Senate confirmed President Obama’s nomination of Robert McDonald, former CEO, President, and Chairman of the Board of Procter & Gamble, to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. Mr. McDonald graduated in the top 2% of his class at West Point and served in the Army for 5 years before entering the private sector, and now, as Senator Burr (R-NC) stated, he “has agreed to serve his country once again.”
Several Senators expressed that McDonald’s management experience and personal qualities would be crucial in restoring veterans’ trust in the organization. Senator Sanders (I-VT) asserted that the new Secretary’s 33 years at Procter & Gamble “will help develop a well-wrought and accountable VA.” Senator James Moran (R-KS) said that he “was impressed by [McDonald’s] candor, his sincerity, and commitment to serving our nation’s veterans.” Senator David Vitter (R-LA) commented that in a talk, Secretary McDonald had promised “to bring sorely needed accountability and transparency” to the VA.
Additionally, the recent compromise legislation introduced by Representative Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Senator Sanders to provide $17 billion in funding to address the long wait times for health care at many VA facilities and staffing shortages including mental health professionals was highlighted during the Senate debate.
Senator Sanders emphasized his hopes that the bill would be passed this week, and that it “will give the new Secretary the tools he needs to aggressively combat” the VA’s problems. Chief among these, Senator Sanders said, was the shortage of medical staff and space – “No matter how well we run the VA, we will not be able to provide timely care” without adequate personnel, he stressed.
Veteran suicide prevention is one of AFSP’s top priorities and AFSP remains committed to working with Secretary McDonald, Congress, and the White House to ensure our veterans receive the mental health care they fought for and deserve.