Talk about sending mixed messages. Robert McDonald, the new head of the Veterans Affairs Department, wants to hire 28,000 new doctors, nurses and other clinical staff to reduce delays in offering care to the nation's growing VA-eligible population.
Rising need among Afghanistan-Iraq veterans for ongoing physical and psychological care at the same time that the aging Vietnam-era vets are reaching their years of high healthcare needs has placed heightened demands on the ill-prepared agency. To attract the new workers, he's touting higher salaries, school loan forgiveness and what he claims is an improved working environment.
At the same time, McDonald, the former CEO of Procter & Gamble, told the media that he is preparing disciplinary actions against as many as 1,000 VA workers for falsifying wait-time records at some facilities. A report he sent last month to the House Veterans' Affairs Committee contained nearly four dozen names, including four senior executives who might be fired. The rest were mostly clinical personnel, such as pharmacy technicians and nurses. They will face disciplinary actions.
There is no shortage of politicians on Capitol Hill demanding that heads must roll for the long waits at the VA. No doubt some deserve firing. But an environment where the agency's top leader is sending members of Congress the names of people up for disciplinary action is unlikely to motivate many idealistic young professionals to join a public service.