Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald said Monday that the length of time veterans had to wait before receiving medical treatment from VA clinics was like waiting in line for a ride at Disneyland.
“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?” McDonald said according to The Washington Examiner. “And what I would like to move to, eventually, is that kind of measure.”
McDonald made the comparison at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast with reporters on Monday to express his displeasure with an April report from the Government Accountability Office decrying the VA’s inaccessibility to veterans.
At CSM breakfast VA Sec McDonald says we don't measure Disney's success by wait times so why should we measure VA's? pic.twitter.com/heVpCzNdRq
— Sarah Westwood (@sarahcwestwood) May 23, 2016
House Speaker Paul Ryan took to Twitter to point out the obvious: that waiting in line for a ride at an amusement park is not the same as waiting for healthcare.
This is not make-believe, Mr. Secretary. Veterans have died waiting in those lines. https://t.co/OxfT3AYzTi
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) May 23, 2016
Others also pointed out the absurdity in McDonald’s remark.
Are people—are people *dying* in lines at Disney?
Seems like that's a big story we've missed. https://t.co/HSPoSCpoao
— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) May 23, 2016
Healthcare for our veterans is NOT a visit to the Magic Kingdom. They EARNED quality care in a timely fashion!https://t.co/5nRIHiosth
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) May 23, 2016
The VA has been under fire in recent years for its inability to treat veterans’ medical needs in a timely matter. An estimated 307,000 veterans have died waiting for care, according to a 2015 Inspector General report that examined 800,000 pending healthcare enrollment cases. The news of the VA’s inefficiency first broke in 2014, but since then little has changed for veterans awaiting care.
In March, a 51-year-old veteran committed suicide by setting himself on fire in front of a New Jersey VA clinic. Everyday, an estimated 22 veterans commit suicide, which the VA says it’s working to reduce. The agency hosted an summit in Washington D.C. in early February with an action plan to tackle the problem, saying they would make reducing suicide a “top priority.” But an Inspector General report released just days after the summit found calls to the agency’s suicide hotline were frequently sent to voicemail.