Udall Addresses Troubled N.M. VA Hospital

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall meets with Veterans Affairs Secretary nominee Robert McDonald. Courtesy photo
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., met with the nominee to replace former Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, who resigned in May in the wake of the veterans’ scheduling scandal that has impacted the Albuquerque VA. Nominee Robert McDonald, a West Point graduate, is the former Procter & Gamble CEO.
Udall issued the following statement after their meeting:
“New Mexico’s VA is experiencing a crisis of confidence. We need new leadership here and in Washington, D.C., to begin to regain the trust of the veterans the VA serves. I had a good talk with VA Secretary nominee Bob McDonald today about the longstanding problems New Mexico veterans have faced — including high turnover of doctors at rural clinics, the difficulty accessing mental health care, and the lack of transportation options for rural veterans. We also discussed the very disturbing recent events at the VA, including the ongoing investigation into falsified schedules, and the emergency procedures at the Albuquerque hospital. 
“I emphasized the need to immediately restore a culture of transparency and accountability in New Mexico and nationwide. And I reinforced to him that we need a new director at the VA Medical Center in New Mexico who can immediately address these problems while being responsive to New Mexico’s diverse and highly rural community of veterans. Bob McDonald is a veteran who has a strong record of corporate leadership, in which he has brought about the kind of management changes we need to see at the VA. I’m optimistic that he will be a strong advocate for veterans in New Mexico and across the country. And I look forward to supporting him during the confirmation process.”
Udall has called for independent and criminal investigations of the troubled Albuquerque VA, and for improvements to scheduling, emergency response and other issues affecting veterans’ care in New Mexico. He introduced the bipartisan Rural Veterans Improvement Act in February with U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., in response to concerns he has heard from veterans across New Mexico. The bill would address some of the biggest barriers to health care for veterans in rural communities, including retention of doctors and nurses at rural clinics, access to mental health care, transportation to doctors’ appointments, and improvements at the VA’s community-based outpatient clinics.