VA Secy McDonald: ‘If I Was Misunderstood,’ or ‘Said the Wrong Thing,’ Glad To Have Chance To Correct It

On Tuesday’s broadcast of MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” Veterans Affairs’ Secretary Robert McDonald said of his comments comparing VA wait times to lines at Disney, “if I was misunderstood or if I said the wrong thing, I am glad that I have the opportunity to correct it.”

McDonald responded to criticisms of the comments by stating, “I’m here, I took this job, I came out of retirement to take this job to fight for veterans, and to do that, to transform the VA, to provide a better veterans experience. I mean, as you know, I went to West Point. I was an Airborne Ranger in the 82nd Airborne Division. I joined the Procter & Gamble Company, worked there for for a number of years, ended up being CEO. And when I got the call from the White House, it was clear to me that this was an opportunity to bring all that experience together to  transform the VA, to improve care for veterans. That’s why I’m fighting for my brothers and sisters who are veterans, and we’re working hard to improve the veteran experience. Look, we get it, wait times are important. There’s no question wait times are important, but there’s more to the veteran experience than just wait times.”

McDonald was later asked if he could understand why people were upset about his analogy. He answered, “I’m a veteran. I have put my life in danger for this country. I have served with those who have put their own lives in danger. I came out of retirement to do this job because I care so deeply about those men and women who serve our country. And I’ve been to over 300 VA facilities now in about 20 months. And I sit down and I talk to veterans, and I listen to them, and I listen to their concerns, and nothing drives me crazy more than our inability to provide timely care for them. I’m working as hard as I can to do this, and I’m bringing together all the experience that I’ve had to do it. Things are improving, but they’re not where they need to be, and we’re working hard to get them there.”

When asked if he was sorry for what he said, McDonald stated, “I’m here to improve the veteran experience. I’m here to get more veterans in for care. I’m here to reduce the disability claim backlog. I — wait times are important but they’re not the only measure of veteran experience, and that’s what veterans are telling us. We’ve talked to a lot of veterans. It’s important, and if I was misunderstood or if I said the wrong thing, I am glad that I have the opportunity to correct it.”

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