Obama to name former Proctor Gamble CEO as new VA head

President Barack Obama will tap Bob McDonald, retired chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer of Procter & Gamble, as the new secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to fix the troubled system, according to a CNN report.

McDonald (pictured right) worked for Proctor & Gamble for 33 years and led the company for four years until his retirement in 2013. During his tenure, he oversaw 120,000 employees in 120 plants and the company realized annual sales of more than $84 billion.

Under his leadership, Proctor & Gamble was named twice as the best company for leaders by Chief Executive Magazine; ranked number 1 in Hay Group's Best Companies for Leadership Study, which analyzes 2,200 companies around the world each year; and the Visionary Award for Board Diversity by Women's Corporate Directors, according to his company profile.

After graduating from West Point with an engineering degree, McDonald served as a captain in the U.S. Army for five years, primarily in the 82nd Airborne Diversion, and later received the Meritorious Service Medal.

Despite his qualifications, news of McDonald's nomination came as a surprise to industry observers. "We still are trying to figure out who he is and what he's about," Garry Augustine, a top official with Disabled American Veterans, one of the nation's largest veterans' service groups, told USA Today. "He's not well-known in the veteran community. Not known at all. We're looking forward to meeting him."

"McDonald is not a name that was on anyone's radar over the last few weeks," Paul Rieckhoff, CEO and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told CNN in a statement. "His branding background may prove helpful, because there are few organizations in America with a worse reputation with its customers than the VA right now."

Indeed, the VA scandal continues to grow since CNN first broke the news that as many as 40 veterans died at the Phoenix VA facility while waiting on a secret waitlist for treatment. A recent report from the office of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) reveals that up to 1,000 veterans  over the past 10 years may have died in VA hospitals as a result of misconduct, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

In the wake of the fallout, Obama called for a nationwide investigation into the VA system and Eric Shinseki resigned as VA secretary soon after a VA Office of Inspector General report revealed widespread, systematic problems that led to care delays at VA facilities across the country.

Meanwhile, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors on Friday delivered a report to Obama that found "a corrosive culture" and inadequate resources contributed to the VA healthcare scandal, according to CQ Roll Call. Nabors blamed the culture problems on several factors: the difficulty of hiring and firing employees, a history of backlash against whistleblowers, an unrealistic 14-day scheduling policy that may have led to the misconduct, and a lack of resources and outdated systems.

If the Senate confirms McDonald, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, told CNN in a statement that "he'll need to root out the culture of dishonesty and fraud that has taken hold within the department and is contributing to all of its most pressing challenges."

The VA scandal has also led to the departures of two senior officials, according to the New York Times. Robert L. Jesse, M.D., principal deputy undersecretary for health, who stepped in last month as the department's head of healthcare to replace Robert Petzel, will be replaced by Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., who served as the assistant deputy undersecretary for health for quality, safety and value.

Will A. Gunn, the department's general counsel, will be succeeded by Tammy Kennedy, who currently serves as the department's principal deputy general counsel.

In other VA news, The Tennessean reports that Jonathan B. Perlin, M.D., chief medical officer for HCA, will take a leave of absence from HCA to serve as a senior advisor to the VA.

To learn more:
- read the CNN story
- here's the USA Today article
- check out CQ Roll Out story
- read the New York Times article
- here's The Tennessean report
- here's McDonald's profile

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