VA Secretary McDonald compares health-care lines to Disney

McDonald asked during a breakfast with reporters sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. "I want people focused on what's really important". Critics charged that as many as 40 patients died as a result of waiting for treatment in Phoenix and that some VA employees there falsified records on how long patients actually waited. The target has since been relaxed to 30 days.

"Waiting to be seen at the VA for something as serious as life threatening illnesses simply can not be compared to waiting in line to visit the Magic Kingdom".

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, said McDonald was brought in as secretary in 2014 precisely to solve the wait-time debacle.

Ryan noted that it was congressional investigations that uncovered the "fiasco" of long wait times at VA clinics during which some veterans have died before they could get care. "What's important is, what's your satisfaction with the experience?"

Congress passed legislation in 2014 requiring greater accountability by the VA, but the agency has remained under fire for dismissing few top officials in light of the debacle, as well for making little progress in decreasing wait times. She lost both legs when the helicopter she was piloting was shot down during the Iraw War, and now receives her health care at a VA hospital.

McDonald made the comments Monday morning, and faced a backlash from Capitol Hill nearly immediately.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump were among those who criticized McDonald's comments. "Veterans have died waiting in those lines", Ryan said on Twitter.

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, chairman of a Senate subcommittee that approves funding for the VA, said McDonald should be embarrassed by such a statement.

Disney park lines and veterans awaiting medical care are not two common points of comparison. If it were a business weighed in the Fortune 500 rankings, McDonald said, it would rank sixth.

Rep. Mike Coffman (R., Colo.), a Marine veteran, called the comments "tone deaf" and accused McDonald of trying to sidestep responsibility for his failed leadership atop the agency.

"Comparing the wait times veterans experience for health care to lines at Disneyland is beyond absurd, and I'm really not amused", she said.

"When you go to Disneyland you're not wondering if you're going to live long enough to make it to Space Mountain", House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers said.

McDonald was talking to reporters on Monday, when he was prompted to answer unpleasant questions about the lack of transparency surrounding the issue of long wait times that veterans are forced to endure. "Nothing drives me insane more than our inability to provide timely care for them".

The VA department released a statement late Monday in response to the outrage, the Washington Post reports.

"Now we know that those are averages and that there are people on either end of the bell curve that we need to do a better job serving, and we're working hard to improve to do that", he said. "This is a solemn duty that we take seriously", the agency said. "We have a very large health care system".

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