Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is criticizing the secretary of Veterans Affairs, who compared wait times at VA medical centers to lines at Disneyland.
Grassley says he met with Secretary Robert McDonald a few years ago before he was confirmed by the Senate for the post and thought he had a lot of promise, but Grassley says McDonald’s latest comment is “ridiculous.”
“I had great hopes for him and he just has come up very short for a long period of time,” Grassley says. “Not just what he said yesterday, but it’s another example of not taking the problems of veterans seriously.” Disneyland is entertainment, Grassley says, while the VA is where veterans go for life-saving health care. He adds, if customers aren’t satisfied with Disneyland, they can go elsewhere, but veterans have to rely on the VA.
Grassley says the VA secretary sets the tone for the entire agency and “he should make amends.” “I don’t know how else to do it other than to ridicule the fact that he’s comparing treatment and whether you wait in lines with something that’s going on at Disneyland,” Grassley says. “It doesn’t show the proper respect for our military people.”
Grassley says it’s “very troubling” that the agency’s top official is downplaying problems at the VA after every scandal and problem there. Wait times at V-As are not improving, Grassley says, and a program is failing that was designed to help veterans who’ve waited longer than 30 days for treatment.
“The Veterans Choice Program, where they can go to private facilities outside the VA,” Grassley says. “They hired a private company to answer the phones for the veterans and that company was just screwing up almost everything.” After veterans and members of Congress complained, Grassley says the VA agreed to take over those operations, though it has yet to be seen if it will be an improvement.
Iowa’s other U.S. Senator, Joni Ernst, the first female combat veteran to serve in the U.S. Senate, issued the following statement:
“Waiting to be seen at the VA for something as serious as life threatening illnesses simply cannot be compared to waiting in line to visit the Magic Kingdom. I’m absolutely appalled by Secretary McDonalds’ callous and completely out of touch comparison of the long VA wait times to lines at Disneyland.
“In November 2014 testimony before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, the VA’s chief consultant for mental health said, the average wait time for a mental health appointment at the VA is 36 days. More recently, we have heard that wait times have increased further. This is entirely unacceptable. Too many veterans have died while waiting to receive assistance from the VA, yet the Secretary himself appears to be living in Fantasyland. He is clearly completely oblivious to the pain and suffering our veterans are going through, made worse by to the VA’s complete incompetence. Our veterans deserve better.
“These men and women have selflessly sacrificed in defense of our freedoms, and our way of life. They deserve nothing less than timely and quality care we can all be proud of.”