President Obama shakes hands with former Procter & Gamble executive Robert McDonald, his nominee as the next Veterans Affairs secretary, at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington. McDonald is going before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee for a confirmation hearing as Congress considers a bill to help the next VA leader do his job. (Charles Dharapak / AP)
Former Procter & Gamble CEO Bob McDonald gets his first chance to publicly lay out his vision for fixing the embattled Veterans Affairs Department today, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
McDonald, 61, was nominated last month by the White House to become the next VA Secretary, charged with changing the culture of the department following a series of high-profile scandals.
The largest involves lengthy wait times for veterans seeking medical appointments and data manipulation by middle managers to protect their performance bonuses. Lawmakers also have criticized the eroded public trust in VA workers and operations, even as more demand is placed on both by the rising number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
White House officials have touted McDonald’s three decades of corporate experience at the consumer goods giant with giving him valuable insight on how to reposition VA with less bureaucracy and a sharper focus on veterans’ needs.
McDonald has spent the last few weeks meeting with members of the Senate, with most lawmakers giving him high initial marks.
In fact, the most difficult obstacle facing his nomination might simply be timing. The Senate is scheduled to start and extended legislative break on Aug. 1, giving the veterans’ committee just a few days to advance the nomination to the full Senate for a vote.
If McDonald isn’t confirmed this month, he may have to wait until late fall before taking over the cabinet post. For now, Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson is serving as acting secretary, putting in place a series of management reforms while the department waits for its new full-time leader.
The hearing begins at 3 p.m.