Next Failure as VA Secretary Named

VA-veterans-affairsOver the weekend, the press published many stories about the new Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Most of them were like this story at the New York Daily News, phoned-in pack journalism that prints the narrative (i.e., the Va is, “an agency beset by treatment delays and struggling to deal with an influx of new veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” When the real workload is aging WWII, Korean and Vietnam-era vets). But they did at least get the guy’s name right: Robert A. McDonald.

An administration official said Obama would announce McDonald’s appointment Monday. If confirmed by the Senate, McDonald would succeed Eric Shinseki, the retired four-star general who resigned last month as the scope of the issues at veterans’ hospitals became apparent.

Nothing about Robert McDonald, a former head of Procter & Gamble, suggests he has any hope of turning around this particular bottom-seeking Titanic of an agency. After leaving the Army he was a career P&G employee for 33 years, with the last three in the top job. While he was there, the company performed well and grew slowly but steadily, so he’s probably not a bozo. That’s good news. But on the other hand, he’s never had a turn-around task. He’s got one now.

The President may have chosen him because he grew up in Chicago. He sure as hell didn’t choose him because McDonald is one of his political supporters, though. In the 2012 cycle, McDonald (he’s the Robert A. from Cincinnati, identified as working for P&G or retired) gave $10,000 to Mitt Romney, and thousands more to other Republican efforts.

In tapping McDonald for the post, Obama is signaling his desire to install a VA chief with broad management experience. McDonald also had military experience, graduating near the top of his class from West Point and serving as a captain in the Army, primarily in the 82nd Airborne Division.

via Former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald tapped to lead Veterans Affairs – NY Daily News.

McDonald was a member of the Class of ’75, and so his service was in the Carter-era Hollow Army. There has been a lot of reaction from a lot of folks already, but there are really only three questions anyone needs to ask about this:

  1. Will McDonald hold VA executives and managers accountable for their mis-, mal- and non-feasance that has neglected vets to the point that many have sickened and died? and,
  2. Will McDonald change the culture of the VA from one of self-service by bureaucrats to one of selfless service by servant supporters? and,
  3. Will McDonald shift the VA’s massive resources from unproductive DC-area bureaucracy out to the hospitals and clinics in the field, and provide some way for those vets not near a facility to be treated?

If you’ve been reading this blog (or if you’re a cynic), you can probably answer those questions correctly. Thing is, McDonald could be a hero, or he could be a bum like Shinseki and Gibson, and it just won’t matter. He can’t do any of those things. His hands are tied.

His hands are tied by Congress (yes, the selfsame Congress that will crucify him on C-SPAN the moment the next inevitable crisis hits or scandal is exposed). His hands are tied by his own army of counterproductive VA Lawyers. And his hands are tied by sweetheart employment contracts with pinky-ring union bosses. He could be the man of the greatest competence and best will in the entire world, and he’s still going in to a task where we have no problem already calling him a failure.

The rest of the press will catch up with us in due course. Sorry about that, Bob.

4 thoughts on “Next Failure as VA Secretary Named

  1. DAN III

    The very first thing McDonald needs to do is CUT his OWN salary by 20%. McDonald then needs to immediately eliminate, terminate, retire, the top 20% wage takers embedded in the VA’s non-medical staff bureaucracy. No if’s, ands, or buts about it. Do it. VA management are not protected by labor unions. Nor are they protected by VA lawyers. Further announce those eliminated positions are done, never to return. Then McDonald needs to announce to every other remaining managerial twit, including those with “MD” or “BSN” behind their names that effective immediately their salaries too, are now adjusted by the same 20% reduction he just took. Thirdly McDonald needs to eliminate ALL bonuses for every VA employee from the janitor to McDonald himself. Lastly, McDonald needs to announce that ANY VA employee not agreeing with the above program is encouraged to resign immediately. Work slowdowns or stoppages will not be tolerated. Any employee engaged in such will be terminated with prejudice. And in my mind, the above would be just for starters.

    Don’t hold your breath expecting McDonald to do any of the above. “Lead by example” is most likely a phrase not in McDonald’s vocabulary.

    1. Andy

      Plus , more disciplinary rules should be emplemented on any employees disrespecting Veterans that come in for treatment , such as talking down to them , putting off any treatment , if a private hospital did this sort of thing they would soon be out of business , this is just more government failure due to being to big and passing the buck , the VA has always had problems , there is no way that it can ever put back to where it should be , myself I believe that the VA should be dissolved , and Veterans sent to private doctors and hospitals , then the VA reimburse these institutions , just like insurance would do , but pay 100% of the bill , like they do now , a lot of the jobs at VA hospitals are over paid compared to private sector jobs , this would help save tax money in the long run , but government doesn’t want to be cut back they want to grow and gain more power .Be prepared and ready . Keep your powder dry .

  2. Aesop

    This is a no-down-side pick by Obozo: Heads I win, Tails you lose.

    If McDonald succeeds, “Hey, see how *I* fixed the VA for you.”

    If he fails, “We tried letting the Republicans fix it, but they just hate me because I’m black, and the VA is all Bush’s fault.”

    Evidently McDonald’s education was not sufficiently classical, and he was never exposed to the story of Brer Rabbit And The Tar Baby.

  3. Darkwater

    Considering your comment at the end of the first paragraph: Unfortunately, the source escapes me at the moment, but if recent memory serves, the current population of Iraq & Afghan War veterans on the VA rolls amounts to 7%, and the impact on the VA budget is 4%.

    The media keep pounding the “hordes” of recent victims/veterans of “Bush’s wars”, but the facts simply don’t comply with the hype, so they are ignored.

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