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Obama to nominate former Procter & Gamble head as VA secretary

By Jake Miller / CBS News 4:10 PM June 29, 2014

President Obama will nominate Bob McDonald, the former chief executive of Procter & Gamble and a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, as the next secretary of veterans affairs on Monday, a senior White House official tells CBS News.

The selection of McDonald, a longtime businessman rather than a decorated general, doctor, or politician like other recent VA secretaries, could reflect the systemic problems plaguing the VA medical system, which has come under fire in recent months for mismanagement and treatment delays that have been linked to the deaths of dozens of veterans nationwide.

The official told CBS News that McDonald’s time atop Procter & Gamble “prepares him well for a huge agency with management challenges in servicing more than 8 million veterans a year.”

“At P&G he oversaw more than 120,000 employees, with operations around the world, selling products in more than 180 countries, in more than 2.5 million stores, reaching more than 5 billion customers,” the official said. “McDonald’s personal and professional history make him the perfect person to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs during this important time.”

Beyond McDonald’s career in business, the White House also emphasized his deep connections to the U.S. military, noting that he and many members of his family have worn the uniform.

“McDonald graduated from West Point in the top [two percent] of his class and served in the U.S. Army for five years, achieving the rank of Captain in the 82nd Airborne Division,” the official noted. “He is a significant supporter of the U.S. Military Academy, and is a Life Member of the U.S. Army Ranger Association and the 75th Ranger Regiment Association. He is also a member of the Association of Graduates of West Point.”

The intended nomination was first reported by the Washington Post.

On Friday, Rob Nabors, the aide tasked by the president with overseeing the White House review of the VA scandal, submitted a report decrying the “corrosive” management culture at the agency that led to “significant and chronic failures” in the provision of medical care to veterans.

The scandal was kicked off in April when it was reported that several veterans at the VA facility in Phoenix had died while awaiting care. It was later revealed that officials there were falsifying waiting lists to understate the amount of time some veterans had waited to receive care.

An internal audit by the VA completed in May also found roughly 1,700 veterans who were not on any wait list in the Phoenix facility, leaving them at risk of falling through the cracks of the scheduling process.

The outrage that attended the reports of misconduct and treatment delays at VA facilities eventually claimed the job of then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, a celebrated Army general who’d held that post since the beginning of the president’s administration.

Mr. Obama selected Shinseki’s deputy, Sloan Gibson, to serve as acting VA secretary while he continued looking for a permanent replacement.

Members of both parties in Congress have slammed the agency’s management failures, demanding accountability and new leadership. After the intended nomination of McDonald went public on Sunday, House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., said McDonald, if he’s confirmed by the Senate ” will inherit a Department of Veterans Affairs under a specter of corruption that may very well surpass anything in the history of American government.”

“In order to pave the way for serious and substantive reforms that will help VA to effectively deliver the care and benefits our veterans have earned, he’ll need to root out the culture of dishonesty and fraud that has taken hold within the department and is contributing to all of its most pressing challenges,” Miller said. “Quite simply, those who created the VA scandal will need to be purged from the system.”

“Personnel changes, however, won’t be enough,” Miller added. “The only way McDonald can set the department up for long term success is to take the opposite approach of some other VA senior leaders. That means focusing on solving problems instead of downplaying or hiding them, holding employees accountable for mismanagement and negligence that harms veterans, and understanding that taxpayer funded organizations such as VA have a responsibility to provide information to Congress and the public rather than stonewalling them.”

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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