VA Secretary Robert McDonald 'Deeply Regrets' Wait Time Remarks

Robert McDonald released the statement a day after the remarks.

May 24, 2016, 6:13 PM

— -- Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald says he "deeply regrets" comparing wait times at VA hospitals and facilities to lines at Disney parks.

“At VA we take our mission of caring for those who ‘shall have borne the battle’ very seriously; we have the best and most noble mission in government," McDonald said in the statement, released a day after the remarks.

"If my comments Monday led any Veterans to believe that I, or the dedicated workforce I am privileged to lead, don't take that noble mission seriously, I deeply regret that. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

At a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in Washington on Tuesday, McDonald was speaking about veterans’ satisfaction when he made the controversial comparison.

"When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line?" he asked. "What's important? What's important is: What's your satisfaction with the experience?"

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

In this afternoon’s statement, McDonald elaborated on his original remarks.

“On Monday, I made some remarks on how we’re working to improve Veterans' satisfaction with the care they receive from VA. It was never my intention to suggest that I don't take our mission of serving Veterans very seriously," he said. "In fact, improving access to care is my number one priority and the priority I have set for the entire department. For the last two years, the huge majority of VA employees have worked tirelessly to improve the timeliness of the care and benefits we provides to Veterans.”

Wait times for veterans erupted into scandal two years ago and led to former head of the VA, Gen. Eric Shinseki's resignation.

As of May 1 wait times were seven days for primary care and 10 days for specialists, according to department data.

In a statement, the VA said that it takes veterans' care "seriously" and acknowledge that "veterans are still waiting too long for care."

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