Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Tells VA Secretary “Apologize or Resign”

May 25, 2016
Press Release
Veterans Affairs Chief Displays Shocking Indifference Over Wait Times

Veterans Literally Dying While They Wait to See VA Doctor 

WASHINGTON – Congressman Vern Buchanan, who represents a district with one of the highest numbers of veterans in the nation, said today the VA secretary should “apologize or resign” over his callous dismissal of long wait times for medical treatment at VA facilities.

Secretary Robert McDonald's comment that veterans waiting weeks or months for medical care are similar to tourists waiting in line for a ride at Disneyland shows an offensive disregard for our service men and women.

“This statement exposes a shocking indifference to an issue that is life or death for millions of our veterans awaiting care in VA facilities,” Buchanan said. “Secretary McDonald should apologize immediately to show that he understands the depth of the issue, and if he refuses then he should resign.”

McDonald initially made the comments during a press event on Monday, refusing to apologize Tuesday after the comments were widely criticized. “When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line, or what’s important?” McDonald said. “What’s important is, what’s your satisfaction with the experience?”

McDonald’s remark comes more than two years after it was revealed that employees at 110 Veterans Administration facilities nationwide kept secret lists and manipulated wait time data to conceal the amount of time veterans waited for medical care. As many as 40 patients died at one VA facility while on these wait lists.

“It is a national disgrace that our veterans have continued to wait for care, years after this scandal came to light,” said Buchanan. “Secretary McDonald’s flippant attitude towards this suffering calls into question his judgment and commitment to reform.”

Just last month, it was reported that supervisors at VA facilities in seven states directed their staffs to lie about wait times to make it appear that veterans were receiving timely care – when the facts paint a grossly different picture.

Furthermore, it was revealed that employees at 40 medical facilities across 19 states regularly “zeroed out” veteran wait times, which in some cases had been going on for as long as a decade. 

In a separate report last month, the GAO also found that the VA has not done enough to prevent wait times from being manipulated – and that current VA wait time data underestimates how long veterans wait for care.

“We keep hearing that the problem hasn’t been fixed and that veterans still have to sit and wait before they get to see a doctor,” Buchanan said.

To date, not a single senior VA executive has been terminated for this scandal.