VA secretary refuses to talk to many veterans during Memphis visit

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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.


  • Joe

    Your story isn’t totally true, He had three talks today, one for the media, one for the employees and one for the veterans. The one for the veterans was held around the time you were filming the beginning of this story from across the street. At that time he talked to and answered questions, VA Police DID tell veterans about that meeting and directed veterans on where and when it was happening.

  • Andrew J Key III

    While the Hell did we let them hire him? If he’s not interested in speaking with Veteran’s he has no idea what we are all in need of. Just throwing money and a new Secretary in the mix, is not going to make a difference between good and bad health care. Or claim adjusters who will most likely rubber stamp prior decisions. Furthermore, who ever gets the top job at the VA, must be willing to meet Veteran’s and hear first hand account problems they have had with the VA.

  • Joan Zakrocki

    What does it say about the the culture at the VA when a press conference run by the Secretary of the VA, about serving veterans is devoid of veterans? If there truly was a presentation at the Memphis VAMC, by the Secretary involving veterans, that might go far to reinstating trust within the veteran community. Respect for veterans and patient centered care starts at the top and trickles down. Believe me Mr Secretary everyone IS watching…..

  • Joe Chenelly

    What a terrible, terrible piece of trash news! This local reporter unsuccessfully tries to get an unscheduled, exclusive interview from a Presidential cabinet member, so he has sour grapes and writes this? Heinous! I am shocked a news outlet would allow this. McDonald spoke directly with nearly 100 veterans during this visit and far more than that in the townhalls he held. And this reporter should certainly be aware of that.

  • Harold E. Newell Jr. GySgt retired USMC

    Just like the Veterans Day free meals at a lot of restaurants, seldom does anyone check to see if those that eat there have their discharge or anything with them to prove that they have served in our armed forces. Thousands eat for free that day that never served. That will be the same thing that happens with this paying for medical treatment outside the VA of people claiming to be disabled veterans that never did. Where there is free money you can bet there will be those that will jump on the bandwagon.

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