Robert McDonald, former chief of Procter and Gamble and President Obama’s choice to head the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs, faces a gargantuan task. The previous agency head, General Eric Shinseki, resigned in the wake of scandals involving secret patient waiting lists and record falsification at numerous medical centers. Since his departure, additional reports of retaliation against whistleblowers and millions of dollars in unnecessary payments to veterans with only temporary disabilities have come before Congress.
McDonald will doubtless begin by addressing administrative bloat, deficits in medical staffing, and, in the words of a recent White House assessment, the “corrosive culture” that permeates the health-care arm of the VA. Indeed, the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act was recently passed to address precisely these problems. But the new director should not ignore the VA’s other scandal: a dysfunctional benefits system for veterans with disabilities.