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. Perhaps the toughest condemnation 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.”