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Begich Urges VA Secretary Nominee Robert McDonald to Use Alaska Model and "Shake Things Up"


McDonald brings military and private-sector experience to troubled VA system 

U.S. Senator Mark Begich voted today to support the confirmation of Robert McDonald for the position of Secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), noting that McDonald will be taking over a badly broken system that has been underfunded for more than a decade. 

“You can take charge and change it now,” said Begich.  “You’re the right guy at the right time.”

McDonald, who brings a combination of military services and private-sector expertise to the job, was confirmed by the Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee today by a bipartisan vote of 14-0.  His nomination will next go before the full Senate for a final confirmation vote.

On Tuesday Begich, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, questioned McDonald during a committee hearing on McDonald’s credentials for the job and noted that the new VA secretary must be a strong leader who is willing to stand up and fight for funding.

Begich questions McDonald at a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on Tuesday. (video here)

“We need a forceful leader who will be able to fix the broken VA system,” said Begich.  “Robert McDonald impressed me as a tough manager who will hold people accountable.  He may shake things up a little at the VA but that’s okay with me—we need to change the way we do business in order to get our veterans the care they deserve.”

Begich met privately with McDonald after the committee confirmation today to press him on Alaska VA issues.  Begich urged McDonald to implement the “Alaska VA model” nationwide. Federal VA officials called the Alaska VA model “phenomenal” and “trail blazing” at a recent Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing.  Begich said he was pleased with the results of the meeting, noting that McDonald has visited Alaska several times and already has a good understanding of the challenges for effectively delivering care to Alaska veterans, starting with fixing its staffing shortages.

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