WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama sought to turn the page Monday on a humiliating chapter in the history of the Veterans Affairs Department, tapping former Procter & Gamble CEO Bob McDonald to take over the sprawling agency.
A former Army captain, McDonald would bring a blend of corporate and military experience to a bureaucracy reeling from revelations of chronic, system-wide failure and veterans dying while on long waiting lists for treatment. His selection reflects Obama's desire to put a tested manager in charge as the White House calls for a top-to-bottom overhaul of the VA.
"What especially makes Bob the right choice to lead the VA right now is his three decades of experience building and managing one of the world's most recognizable companies," Obama said at VA headquarters. "In short, he's about delivering better results."
McDonald, 61, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, was not likely chosen because of any past support for the president. He donated to Republican Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign to unseat Obama and has funded numerous other Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner.
Joined by his wife and adult children, McDonald said he would put veterans at the center of everything the VA does — a bureaucratic twist on the adage that the customer is always right.
"At the VA, the veteran is our customer and we must all focus all day, every day on getting them the benefits and the care that they have so earned," McDonald said. "That's the only reason we are here."
Urging the Senate to confirm McDonald quickly, Obama reiterated his call for Congress to grant the VA secretary more authority to fire senior leaders if necessary. He said some of those responsible for falsifying patient records have been fired.