President Barack Obama's nominee for secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs attended a confirmation hearing recently where he promised several organizational and leadership changes to the VA. If elected, McDonald promised changes such as quarterly video conferences with regional VA officials, new review boards to measure the effectiveness of health care delivery, a focused approach on digital record keeping and a publicized invitation to whistleblowers to help spur change in the department, according to Military Times. 

Inheriting a broken department
Ultimately, McDonald was well received by Senate VA committee officials, who said they would endorse him, The Wall Street Journal reported. However, lawmakers were skeptical about why McDonald would want to take charge of the broken and mismanaged VA. 

"You are about to take over a bankrupt corporation," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, according to the Journal. "The real insolvency is in morale and management."

Senators were blunt about the struggles facing the VA. In the hearing they mentioned problems with data manipulation, whistleblower retaliation, longstanding appointment delays, corruption, insufficient staffing and funds and a flurry of other problems. Many were confused as to why anyone would accept responsibility over an organization fraught with such obstacles.

McDonald, a West Point graduate and veteran himself, called the position a fulfilling responsibility.

"I desperately want this job because I think I can make a difference," McDonald said, according to the Journal. "For me, taking care of veterans is personal. I come from—and deeply care for—military families."

In further remarks, McDonald expressed optimism in changing the VA, and was enthusiastic about his ability to handle the challenge.

"There is a lot of work to do to transform the department and it will not be easy, but it is essential and can be achieved," McDonald said, according to Military Times. "I think I can make a difference … I think this is an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of veterans."

The road ahead
In a greater move for transparency, McDonald suggested sharing his cellphone number with the senators, opening the lines of communication between them. However, the nominee for VA expressed that this would not be a one-way street.

"When I give you my cell phone number, I want yours at the same time," McDonald said, according to the Journal. 

Now, after receiving strong support from the senators at the confirmation hearing, McDonald may be voted to head the VA as early as next week. Sen. Bernie Sanders expects a full Senate vote before lawmakers take their summer break Aug. 2, according to Military Times.