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CINCINNATI (AP) — U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald said Saturday that the agency plagued by long veterans' waits for health care and other problems is on the road to improvement and committed to winning back veterans' trust.
"We know we have to work harder to earn that trust back one veteran at a time," McDonald told reporters at the VA Medical Center in Cincinnati.
The former Army ranger and longtime executive of Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co. talked with reporters at the facility after meeting with VA employees and talking with patients. He said he continually stresses to employees and patients the urgent need for all of them to provide feedback needed to fix the problems.
A spokesman for Disabled American Veterans said in a telephone interview Saturday that McDonald also has been reaching out to that group and to other veterans service organizations.
"We think he is already making strides to improve the VA medical system by doing that, and we are looking forward to seeing the results after his first 90 days," said Steven Wilson, spokesman for the national DAV, which is based in northern Kentucky.
McDonald, who said he had been on the job 59 days as of Saturday, said what he has heard so far in his travels to facilities hasn't been surprising.
He said the problems — including long wait times and cases of falsified records — have been well-documented and are being addressed as quickly as possible.
"We are putting veterans at the center of everything we do," he said.
House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from southwestern Ohio, said in a statement that he was pleased McDonald took the time to come to the Cincinnati facility and believes it's an important step toward improving veteran care and services.
"As I've said before, Secretary McDonald is a strong leader with decades of experience in the private sector, which I believe is necessary to oversee the kind of dramatic change that is needed and long overdue at the VA," Boehner said.