By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Monday, May 23, US Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) and US Representatives Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) and Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) reacted to “absurd” comments by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald downplaying wait time problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and questioning the need to make such information public.
Senator Shelby said, “This morning, US Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary McDonald compared VA wait times to lines at Disneyland. This comment was completely inappropriate, and it underscores the problems with the Department.”
On Monday, during a breakfast meeting with the Christian Science Monitor, Secretary McDonald told reporters that the wait times veterans experience between making an appointment and actually being seen aren’t a good measure of performance and shouldn’t be released. Attempting to explain why overall patient satisfaction is a more accurate metric, Secretary McDonald compared veteran patient wait times to amusement park lines.
Sec. McDonald said, “When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? What’s important? What’s important is: what’s your satisfaction with the experience?” “I mean, I’ve got so many measures, if I make them all public, you’re all going to write headlines about them and they’re going to distract people from what’s important.”
Congresswoman Roby said in a release, “Comparing the wait times veterans experience for health care to lines at Disneyland is beyond absurd, and I’m really not amused,” she said. “Wait times do matter, and the VA shouldn’t be able to hide them.”
Congressman Byrne said, “You can’t make this stuff up! VA Secretary Bob McDonald today compared long VA wait times to people waiting in line a long time to ride Disneyland rides. He should be ashamed. Our veterans have sacrificed so much, and the least we can do is ensure they have access to timely and quality medical care. This just further motivates me to continue fighting to take power away from the VA bureaucracy and instead give every veteran access to private medical care.”
Sen. Shelby said, “I remain concerned with the serious allegations against the Department of Veterans Affairs. Our veterans risked their lives to protect our freedom, and they have earned the benefit of receiving timely care. I am disappointed that Secretary McDonald would make such a comment, especially when VA wait times have reportedly resulted in veteran deaths.”
Rep. Roby added, “This is exactly why my bill makes VA medical center performance data public on the federal register. By requiring key VA health metrics to be published for everyone to see we can ensure that severely failing facilities receive the attention and corrective action they require.”
Roby’s bill, the VA Medical Center Recovery Act would for the first time require the VA to publish key metrics known as SAIL data on the federal register and would require the Secretary to report to Congress any VA medical centers determined to be failing. HR3234, which passed the House in February, puts the responsibility for identifying and improving the worst performing VA medical centers squarely on the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, requiring him to deploy teams of experts to turn around failing facilities.