Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald is scrambling to calm a growing bipartisan firestorm after downplaying veteran wait times at VA hospitals by comparing them to wait times for rides at Disney theme parks.
McDonald made the comments Monday morning, and faced a backlash from Capitol Hill almost immediately.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., went so far Tuesday as to call for McDonald’s resignation.
“Secretary McDonald’s preposterous statement is right out of Never Never Land,” Blunt said in a statement. “I call on him to resign because it’s clear he cannot prioritize getting our veterans the health care they deserve and have earned in a timely manner.”
One of the toughest condemnations came from Illinois Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat and Iraq war veteran who lost her legs in Iraq and still receives health care at a VA hospital.
“Comparing abhorrent wait times to a trip to Disneyland is unbelievably tone-deaf and hurtful to American heroes desperately in need of care,” she said in a statement. Duckworth, who is running for Senate, said McDonald “needs to comprehensively address the VA's systemic problems -- and that means reducing wait times, improving care and increasing patient satisfaction.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., top Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, also said he was “troubled” by the secretary’s comments and wants to speak with him.
Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of that committee, said in a statement he was “extremely disappointed in Secretary McDonald’s comparison of the deadly VA wait-time scandal to long lines at an amusement park.”
Even Disney pushed back on the secretary’s comments. A Disney Theme Parks representative told Independent Journal Review that they do in fact “take wait times very seriously” at their parks, and, “A large team of highly trained industrial engineers are tasked with improving our guest’s experiences, from transportation, to guest flow, to ride comfort and certainly wait times.”
McDonald made the comparison during a breakfast with reporters in Washington.
“When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what's important? What's important is, what's your satisfaction with the experience?" McDonald said.
On Tuesday, he said in a statement it was never his intention "to suggest I don't take our mission of serving Veterans very seriously."
“Mr. Burch! Mr Burch! Mr Burch!” a reporter implored as the vehicle took off down a suburban street in Washington, D.C. The network wanted to know how just 2 percent of all donations to NVVF were funneled to actual Vietnam veterans.
Charity Navigator, one of the most influential charity watchdog organizations in the U.S., gave Mr. Burch’s organization a zero-star rating on a four-star scale.
“You can’t go lower than that,” says Michael Thatcher, Charity Navigator’s CEO. “They don’t have an independent board of directors, they actually don’t even have a comprehensive board of directors — only three members on the board at this point in time and some of them are family. So one can say, is this representative of an independent board? It’s not.