Blumenthal says VA chief should apologize for Disney comments

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald

Washington – Sen. Richard Blumenthal joined a growing number of lawmakers who slammed Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald for comparing wait times at VA hospitals with wait times at Disney theme parks.

During a Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, Blumenthal, the highest-ranking Democrat on the panel, said he was “troubled” by McDonald’s comments.

“His comments were unfortunate and he should make an apology,” Blumenthal said.

McDonald created a firestorm Monday when he said,  “When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what’s important? What’s important is, what’s your satisfaction with the experience?” He spoke during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in Washington.

McDonald was appointed to the VA to reform its hospitals, which have for years been plagued by criticism of inefficiencies and long wait times for care.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, also said he’d like an apology from McDonald. He said he was “extremely disappointed” in his “comparison of the deadly VA wait-time scandal to long lines at an amusement park.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, D-Wis., also asked McDonald for an apology.

“This is not make-believe, Mr. Secretary. Veterans have died waiting in those lines,” Ryan tweeted Tuesday.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., went so far as to call for McDonald’s resignation.

On Tuesday, McDonald said he was misunderstood.

“I’m only focused on one thing, and that’s better caring for veterans,” he told MSNBC. “That’s my job, that’s why I’m here.”