KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Senate Unanimously Approves McDonald To Lead The VA

Robert A. McDonald, the 61-year-old former chief executive of Procter & Gamble and graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, will take over the embattled VA after a scandal related to wait-time data led to the resignation of Eric Shinseki.

The New York Times: Senate Confirms Obama’s Choice To Lead V.A.
The Senate voted unanimously on Tuesday to confirm Robert A. McDonald, the 61-year-old former chief executive of Procter & Gamble, to take the helm of the sprawling and embattled Department of Veterans Affairs after a scandal over the manipulation of patient wait-time data led to the ouster two months ago of Eric Shinseki (Oppel Jr., 7/29).

The Wall Street Journal: Senate Confirms McDonald As VA Secretary
The Senate confirmed Robert McDonald to head the Department of Veterans Affairs on Tuesday, one day after congressional leaders cobbled together a $17 billion funding bill to help reform the agency and expand care. Mr. McDonald takes over as VA secretary after little debate or opposition and a 97-0 confirmation vote on the Senate floor. Last week, he faced a friendly hearing before the Committee on Veterans' Affairs where he fielded few questions and was lauded by many on the panel (Kesling, 7/29).

The Washington Post: Senate Unanimously Confirms Robert McDonald As VA Secretary
Tuesday’s vote represented a rare example of swift, bipartisan action by the Senate to address pressing problems. Obama nominated McDonald on June 30, and the Senate Veterans Affairs gave him a warm reception during his confirmation hearing last week (Hicks, 7/29).

Politico: Senate Approves Robert McDonald For VA
He’ll take the post from acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson, who was elevated in May when former secretary Eric Shinseki resigned over reports that the department was manipulating records to hide that veterans were at times waiting months to see doctors (French, 7/29).

Reuters:  U.S. Senate Unanimously Confirms McDonald To Head Veterans Agency
McDonald, 61, replaces former Army general Eric Shinseki, who resigned in late May amid a scandal over cover-ups of long waiting times for health care appointments at VA hospitals and clinics across the country. The 97-0 vote to confirm McDonald comes a week after he pledged to bring corporate-style discipline and accountability to the agency, refocusing its 341,000 employees on serving veterans. McDonald, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point who served as P&G CEO from 2009 to 2013, is widely expected to start his new job with an extra $17 billion at his disposal to reduce months-long health care wait times in new legislation slated for passage by Congress this week (7/29).

Meanwhile, legislation to address the veterans' health care issues is making progress, though negative press reports about the system continue -

The Associated Press: Bill To Overhaul VA Heads To Full House, Senate
House and Senate negotiators have approved a $17 billion compromise bill to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs. The vote by the 28-member conference committee late Monday sends the bill to the full House and Senate, where approval is expected later this week. The bill is intended to help veterans avoid long waits for health care, hire more doctors and nurses to treat them, and make it easier to fire executives at the VA (7/19).

USA Today: VA Manipulated Vets’ Appointment Data, Audit Finds
Internal VA documents show the depth of fraudulent scheduling, manipulation of data and in some cases intimidation of staff to hide delays in medical care to veterans in the 6-million patient national system. Auditors found at least one appointment scheduler at 109 VA medical centers who said wait times for veterans had been falsified, according to a USA TODAY analysis of internal VA survey data made public Tuesday. To keep evidence of delayed care out of the VA's official electronic tracking system, secret lists were maintained at 110 facilities, the analysis shows (Zoroya and Hoyer, 7/30).

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