Senate panel backs McDonald for VA secretary

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday endorsed former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald to be the new secretary of Veterans Affairs.

The panel's unanimously vote came one day after a nomination hearing in which he faced no opposition.

Senators said they are eager for McDonald to begin work at the beleaguered agency, which has been plagued by treatment delays and falsified records at VA hospitals and clinics nationwide.

McDonald, 61, of Cincinnati, has pledged to "transform" the VA and address a series of "systematic failures," including patient access to health care, transparency, accountability and integrity.

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the chairman of the Senate veterans panel, said the full Senate could vote on McDonald's nomination as soon as this week.

McDonald told the Senate panel that if confirmed by the Senate, he will take a series of actions over his first 90 days "to deliver the needed reforms our veterans deserve."

He plans to lay out a veteran-centered vision for the department and improve communication within the vast agency, which includes more than 300,000 employees in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, McDonald said. His plan includes frequent video conferences with employees and extensive travel to field offices around the country, he said.