One of my Veteran friends mentioned that he’d have liked to see Admiral Michael Mullen (Ret.) considered as the new head of the VA. Admiral Mullen was the 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and previously served as the Navy’s 28th Chief of Naval Operations. He was only the third naval officer in US Navy history to be appointed to four different four-star assignments. He retired from the Navy after over 43 years of service. Since retiring from Service, he has served on the Board of General Motors and more recently the Board of Directors of Sprint Nextel Corp.
However Obama named former Proctor & Gamble executive Robert McDonald who was also a West Point graduate and served as a captain in the Army including the 82nd Airborne Division.
During McDonald’s time as company CEO, the website stated: “P&G realized annual sales of over $84 billion. The company had more than 120,000 employees, 120 plants and 200 brands in 35 categories, of which 25 brands generate over $1 billion in sales each year.”
McDonald’s confirmation depends on Senate approval. Some members of Congress have praised the choice of Robert McDonald even though he has minimal experience working on veteran’s issues, and being from corporate instead of government; he’s never had to wade through federal political processes.
This could work in his favor, and the favor of our veterans who may benefit from someone with private sector financial and personnel experience. It may be detrimental however as federal government is still involved has never operated any bureaucracy as sensibly as private industry leaders who have shareholders they must answer to.
Considering the VA system has gone through numerous name changes, yet always remained under federal control, numerous Secretaries and senior administrators have been fired or who resigned, but how has changing the head bandage helped heal the infected body?
This brings us to those who matter the most and whose voices deserve to be heard before any politician, bureaucrat or administrator. I asked numerous Veterans their opinions on the VA and on the idea of a new Secretary.
One of my good friends explained his own experiences:
“My experience with the VA has been both good and bad. The VA hospital that I go to is a teaching hospital for major University Medical Center so we are getting some of the brightest medical residents and doctors for our medical care. I know that this is not the case for the majority of veterans. That being said, I have had to wait hours before being seen and that is with a scheduled appointment…”
The point is: the VA is still a political tool. The culture of the VA has to be changed and that is a massive undertaking…on the one hand you have the politics of Washington and on the other hand, you have corporate politics. This change is going to be dirty and I personally don’t believe that McDonald (I will still give him a chance to prove himself) is the man to be willing to make a stand, because it will be unpopular with the political powers and the VA hierarchy. Our veterans deserve the utmost respect, dignity, and quality health care to which our nation is indebted. No more lip service, no more hollow praises, but a genuine gratitude accompanied by action for the sacrifices made by the men and women of our military.