The U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs visits Jackson to talk about a new pilot program and maintain his support for a regional official under fire for allegedly lying to Congress. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.
At the Sonny Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald talked about allegations of lying levied against Dr. Skye McDougall. She's accused of misleading Congress about the VA's new average wait times for appointments during a hearing. Media accounts report she said it was 4 days, when it was 48 days. McDonald says McDougall misheard the question.
"We didn't do as good a job of correcting the record more quickly and that created some misperceptions about that testimony. We need to work to repair whatever trust we broke," said McDonald.
McDonald says he's worked with McDougall and expressed his confidence in her. Intially she was assigned to Phoenix, Arizona. But Senator John McCain opposed her appointment. Then she was assigned to manage the network that includes Mississippi. After meeting with McDougall, last month every member of the Mississippi congressional delegation signed a joint statement asking that her appointment be rescinded. Skye McDougall.
"I understand how it happened because people only know what they read in the media and so things get started. But I do have the secretary's support. I've been meeting with the community, with the VSO's, and really it's about taking care of the veterans," said McDougall.
McDonald introduced McDougall to veteran's and their service organizations at a town hall meeting, where he voiced his support for her. He also announced the VA medical center in Jackson, is a test site for a new Telehealth project. McDonald says they've upgraded an old system and it will protect veterans' privacy. Veterans will be able to use smart phones and tablets to talk to medical providers from their homes.