VA director: 'I have to compete with other medical systems'

VA Secretary Bob McDonald at a press meeting Monday said his organization is more similar to the private sector than other federal agencies, according to a report from Federal News Radio.  

"VA is a business," Mr. McDonald said at the meeting, which was hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, according to the report. "If VA were a business on the Fortune 500, we would be No. 6. … I have to compete with the other medical systems in the country. What's right? Is it right to compare VA with other parts of government? Or is right to compare it with the other businesses it competes with for resources? I think it's right to compare it with the other businesses we have to compete with."

According to Federal News Radio, these comments come in context of the Veterans First Act, which was passed by the Senate VA Committee earlier this month. This act would allow the secretary to appoint, pay and discipline the department's leaders, essentially streamlining and accelerating disciplinary actions. Though Mr. McDonald has not yet decided his official position on the legislation, he said it would also remove some of the red tape around the executive recruitment process and in crafting compensation contracts, according to the report.

The comparison Mr. McDonald drew between businesses and the VA extends beyond its organizational structure too, according to the report. He said he wants the same standards of the business world to apply to the VA, and particularly to its wait times and how they are measured.

"What we should be measuring is the veteran's satisfaction. What really counts is how does the veteran feel about [his or her] encounter with the VA. When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line?" he asked, according to Federal News Radio.


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