U.S. Senator Tom Udall joined the Senate in voting unanimously to confirm Robert McDonald, a West Point graduate and former Procter & Gamble CEO, as the new secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The position was vacated in May when former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned in the wake of the veterans’ scheduling scandal that has impacted the Albuquerque VA. Udall recently met with McDonald to discuss the immediate need for changes within the VA so it can begin to regain the trust of the veterans it serves. Udall issued the following statement after the confirmation vote:
“What has happened at the VA is a betrayal of our veterans, and I urge Bob McDonald to move quickly to address these systematic problems and restore a culture of transparency and accountability. I’m optimistic he will be a strong advocate for veterans in New Mexico and across the country, and I look forward to working with him to help ensure our veterans receive the high quality care they deserve.
“I believe Congress must quickly approve bipartisan reform at the VA to help address the obstacles our veterans face as they try to access timely quality medical care. This legislation will help veterans who cannot get prompt appointments to obtain care outside the VA system, addresses the shortage of medical staff at many VA facilities – especially those in rural areas – and funds a $9.5 million lease agreement to continue VA’s pharmacy research center in Albuquerque. Importantly this legislation increases accountability for senior VA managers to ensure the recent scheduling scandal is never repeated. We have a duty to ensure that our veterans get the best possible care, and I hope we rapidly pass this legislation to give veterans in New Mexico and across the country better access to the medical care they have been promised.”