Sanders backs VA pick

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voiced his support Wednesday for the Obama administration's pick to lead the troubled Veterans Affairs Department, hinting at a smooth confirmation process.

Sanders labeled his hourlong Tuesday sit-down with former Procter & Gamble executive Robert McDonald “a really good meeting.”

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“I was impressed by his devotion to veterans, by his service in the military, by his corporate service and knowledge of running a very, very large entity,” Sanders told reporters.

“I have a feeling he’s going to be a very good secretary at the VA,” he added.

McDonald worked at the Fortune 500 company for 33 years. A 1975 West Point graduate, he served for five years in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.

If confirmed, he will inherit an agency of more than 300,000 employees that has been wracked by months of scandals over falsified patient wait times, shoddy medical care and mistreatment of whistleblowers.

Sanders said McDonald understands the VA needs more accountability and transparency.
 
He also “understands the enormously important role the VA is playing providing healthcare to six and a half million Americans and it needs to be strengthened,” the senator added.
 
Sanders said his panel has not yet slated a confirmation hearing for McDonald but wants to move “as soon as possible because we think it’s important the VA have a permanent head.”
 
In the meantime, the committee will hear from Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson on Monday about the steps the agency has taken to get patients off lengthy wait list and improve accountability in the department, according to a press release.