WH sends McDonald’s VA nomination to Senate

The White House on Monday formally submitted to the Senate the nomination of Robert McDonald to head the Veterans Affairs Department.

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will meet McDonald for the first time in his Capitol Hill office Tuesday afternoon, ahead of what is likely to be a contentious confirmation process.

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If confirmed by the Senate, McDonald, a former chief executive of Procter & Gamble, will inherit an agency roiled by a scandal over fraudulent patient wait times, which critics say led to the deaths of veterans.

Independent investigations have found systemic misconduct throughout the VA healthcare system, and the FBI is in the midst of a criminal investigation.

Asked about the meeting, a Sanders spokesman referred The Hill to the chairman’s June 29 statement, when McDonald’s nomination was announced.

Sanders said in the June statement that he looked forward to sitting down with McDonald “in order to ascertain his views” on issues such as improved transparency and accountability at the VA, and the need for more doctors and nurses at the agency.

The Senate panel has not yet set a date for McDonald’s confirmation hearing.

The scandal over wait times also led to the House and Senate passing legislation to reform the VA system, including measures to overhaul the medical network and grant the VA secretary expanded powers to fire incompetent managers.

Lawmakers from both chambers are racing to hammer out differences between the competing, but differences remain, including the cost of the reforms.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the Senate bill could cost at least $50 billion a year, with the House bill costing $44 billion over five years.