June 29, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Ex-head of Procter & Gamble is Obama's choice to lead Veterans Affairs

Washington— President Barack Obama plans to nominate former Procter & Gamble executive Robert McDonald as the next Veterans Affairs secretary, as the White House seeks to shore up an agency beset by treatment delays and struggling to deal with an influx of new veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

An administration official said Obama would announce McDonald’s appointment Monday. If confirmed by the Senate, McDonald would succeed Eric Shinseki, the retired four-star general who resigned last month as the scope of the issues at veterans’ hospitals became apparent.

In tapping McDonald for the post, Obama is signaling his desire to install a VA chief with broad management experience. McDonald also has a military background, graduating near the top of his class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and serving as a captain in the Army, primarily in the 82nd Airborne Division.

The administration official insisted on anonymity in order to confirm McDonald’s appointment before the president’s announcement.

McDonald resigned abruptly from Procter & Gamble in May 2013 amid pressure from investors concerned that he was not doing enough to boost the company’s performance.

McDonald, who had spent 33 years at the consumer products giant, said at the time of his retirement that he believed constant speculation about his job status had become too much of a distraction to the company.

The VA operates the largest integrated health care system in the country, with more than 300,000 fulltime employees and nearly 9 million veterans enrolled for care. But the agency has come under intense scrutiny in recent months amid reports of patients dying while waiting for appointments and of treatment delays in VA facilities nationwide.

Obama dispatched one of his top advisers, Rob Nabors, to the VA to help investigate agency issues and appointed Sloan Gibson as acting secretary while awaiting a permanent replacement.

Nabors and Gibson delivered a scathing report to Obama Friday, which portrayed the Veterans Affairs Department as battling a corrosive culture of distrust, lacking in resources and ill-prepared to deal with an influx of new and older veterans with a range of medical and mental health care needs.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called McDonald “a good man, a veteran and a strong leader with decades of experience in the private sector. With those traits, he’s the kind of person who is capable of implementing the kind of dramatic, systemic change that is badly needed and long overdue at the VA.”

McDonald is 61. A native of Gary, Indiana, he grew up in Chicago and graduated from West Point in 1975 with a degree in engineering. He also earned an MBA from the University of Utah in 1978.