VA Secretary comes to Memphis to talk about medical center problems

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The man in charge of guiding the VA through the scandal of delayed and insufficient care at VA medical centers nationwide is in Memphis this week answering to angry veterans.

VA Secretary Bob McDonald was appointed after the former secretary resigned among reports of deaths at VA centers.

McDonald refused to speak to media Wednesday, but did address hundreds of veterans from across the country at the AMVETS 70th annual convention.

He spoke about the problems at the medical centers and new legislation aimed at fixing those problems.

But some are angry it took veterans dying from in adequate care for Washington to make changes.

His nickname is “Honey,” but veteran Patrick Brown didn’t have any sweet words for McDonald.

“How can you guys move that fast to appoint a new boss and you couldn’t move fast to fix the VA problems to begin with?” he asked.

The president signed a new law last week, allocating billions of dollars for VA centers across the country and allowing veterans to seek care from outside providers if they cannot get quick enough care at a VA center.

“The law grants new authority to remove or transfer senior executives based on poor performance or misconduct,” McDonald told veterans Wednesday. “That’s what we call accountability.”

Brown said his group, Sons of AMVETS, has been trying to get similar legislation passed for years.

“It took the scandal in Arizona to get them to finally pass that bill, when we’ve been there seven years pushing the same bill,” he said, shaking his head.

While speaking to veterans at the AMVETS convention, McDonald made lots of promises.

“I want to know when you’re not being served well,” he told the crowd. “I have to know so we can make things better.”

While some veterans seem confident the VA has now turned the corner, others say they will believe it when they see it.

“Right now, I can’t say for sure,” veteran Terrence Holt said. “Until that money is issued and I can see for myself, I don’t want to give a statement on that.”

McDonald will tour the Memphis VA Thursday and speak with employees.

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