VA secretary refuses to talk to many veterans during Memphis visit

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The new boss of the Department of Veterans Affairs was in Memphis Thursday, but he refused to talk with many veterans wanting answers.

Bob McDonald did speak with media about problems at VA centers, including patient deaths due to insufficient and inadequate care.

He answered questions from staff at the Memphis VA earlier in the day, but vets waiting to talk to him in the VA hospital hallways were turned away by police. Still, he insists he is transparent and in touch with veterans.

“We need to communicate what we’re doing so we can regain your trust,” he said.

McDonald spoke about problems with accountability and delayed and insufficient care at VA centers.

Last week, President Obama signed a new law giving billions of dollars to the VA to hire more staff and letting patients get outside care if they cannot get quick enough service at their VA.

Approximately $4 million will be coming to the Memphis VA to help hire 300 new staff members.

The secretary also said the hospital made improvements to the emergency room and action will be taken against anyone responsible for three avoidable deaths there.

“I can tell you that we’re going to hold people accountable,” he sai.

WREG tried talking to veterans waiting to talk to McDonald in the hallway, but hospital administrators told our crew to stop filming.

When asked what words of reassurance he is sharing with veterans who feel abandoned by the VA, McDonald had only one word: “Watch.”

The Memphis VA plans on holding a town hall meeting for all veterans next month, but McDonald will not be there.

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