VA Secretary Nominee Views IT As A Key To VA Reform

Bob Brewin | | July 23, 2014

Robert McDonald, the former Procter & Gamble chief executive and President Barack Obama’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, has been strongly endorsed by all members of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs.  At his nomination hearing yesterday, McDonald said he would apply his experience with information technology and leadership both in the Army and at P&G to improve patient care, customer service and the disability claims system.

A 1975 West Point graduate, McDonald said although he received an engineering degree, he also studied computer science. During his time at the academy, McDonald said he even wrote some basic computer code in assembly language.  McDonald went on to serve in top executive positions at P&G from 2007 through 2013, and said in his written testimony the company under his leadership “worked to digitize the operations of P&G from end to end, including using digital technology in remote areas to acquire and serve new customers.”  McDonald told the committee he viewed VA’s Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture, or VistA, as “world class” and said he wants to develop an “equally world-class [patient] scheduling system” to replace the Electronic Wait List system. That system, first deployed in 2002, has been the root cause of delayed treatment for veterans across the country and the ensuing investigations and scandal led to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation May 30.

Though McDonald said he viewed development of a new scheduling system as a priority, he did not provide the committee with a timeline for that. Yesterday, a VA spokeswoman told Nextgov that VA's Office of Information and Technology “is still determining what acquisition route to pursue and a potential date.”...