Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald testifies before a Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee hearings to examine his nomination to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 22. (The Associated Press)
Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald is scheduled to visit Phoenix Friday, his first stop at a VA medical center since being nominated and confirmed to the cabinet post last month.
McDonald is expected to meet with veterans and staffers following a 1:15 p.m. news conference at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center, where the nation's ongoing scandal over VA health care and mismanagement first erupted four months ago.
McDonald was nominated by President Obama last month and confirmed by the Senate on July 29 to replace Eric Shinseki as leader of a department with a $164 billion budget and 321,000 employees. The VA serves America's more than 21 million military veterans. The Veterans Health Administration includes 150 hospitals and more than 800 other clinics, with a total patient enrollment of 9.3 million.
Since the national furor began over delayed care to veterans and falsification of records, the VA has undergone congressional inquiries, scathing investigations by the Office of Inspector General and a rash of resignations and retirements.
Last week, Congress approved a $16.3 billion bill to pay for health care improvements. Other measures have been passed to institute reforms that would remove incompetent or dishonest administrators and protect whistle-blowers from retaliation.
McDonald, 61, is a West Point graduate who retired from the Army as a captain. After his military career, McDonald joined Procter & Gamble, eventually retiring as CEO after more than 30 years.
McDonald has vowed to travel the nation to hear directly from veterans, whistle-blowers and VA staffers about problems in the agency, at the same time launching a campaign to reform the department.
After the Phoenix event, a departmental news release says he will then travel to Las Vegas for a Saturday speech to the Disabled American Veterans national conference, then a visit the department's newest medical complex, the Southern Nevada Health Care System.