VA scandal poses daunting challenges

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It’s difficult to imagine a more challenging or important job than the one potentially facing Robert McDonald.

McDonald, President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the beleaguered U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, will face confirmation hearings next week in the U.S. Senate.

He is in the unusual position of “hoping” to survive the political fire that comes with such proceedings in order to take on one of the worst tasks in the world at the moment.

The VA needs strong leadership, a singular focus and a no-nonsense culture. That has to start at the top. But considering the years of neglect and, in our view, abuse that has besieged the department, it will take an iron will to change the VA environment.

If his nomination is approved, McDonald will have plenty of allies.

All of America should be outraged by the horrible treatment the VA has heaped upon military veterans for decades. The veterans health care system has been tweaked by bonus-hungry administrators to put off and even ignore vital concerns from soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. All of whom made countless sacrifices in the service of their country.

McDonald is a veteran of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. The military bases in Eastern North Carolina would serve as an excellent starting point for the cleanup campaign that has to be undertaken, no matter who the next VA secretary is.

Thousands of veterans live in the areas surrounding Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. Holding VA services in Eastern North Carolina to a new, tough standard would make a world of difference to a significant part of the veterans’ population and send a message to the rest of the country, as well.

McDonald faces a steep challenge, should he win the confirmation. But one can hardly think of a more important post in America at the moment.