Mrs. MURRAY. Madam President, before I begin I do want to take a moment to commend the chairmen of the Veterans' Affairs Committees in both the House and the Senate for their commitment to reaching a deal that puts our veterans first and gives the VA the tools they need to address immediate challenges.
More importantly, I really applaud their work to build and strengthen the VA system in order to continue to deliver the best care for our Nation's heroes over the long term.
The deal they announced yesterday is a very important step toward addressing a lot of issues that we know exist within the VA system, but it cannot be the final step. As transparency and accountability increase at the VA, so will the investigations and reports of additional concerns, requiring even more action from the VA, from the administration, and from this Congress.
However, as Chairman Miller said yesterday, we cannot legislate good character here in Congress. It is going to be up to the leadership at the Department of Veterans Affairs to truly enact those reforms.
So I have come to the floor today in support of the nomination of Robert McDonald, someone I believe has the skills necessary to make these necessary changes as the next VA Secretary.
As I told Mr. McDonald last week, he is faced with a truly monumental task. Even as we pass comprehensive legislation to bring significant reforms at the VA to reduce wait times, to improve accountability, there are still many serious challenges the VA must address.
Twenty-two veterans still take their own lives each day. Thousands of veterans are alone, coping with sexual assaults. And while the Department has made commendable progress, it will be an uphill battle as we work to eliminate veterans homelessness and the claims backlog. Mr. McDonald will have to grapple with these and many more issues--all on day one.
When I met with Mr. McDonald in my office a few weeks ago, he told me he was one of the veterans who was lost in the system during his transition from military life to civilian life. So I trust--I trust--he understands what a critical moment this is for the VA and why we must finally fix many of these systemic and cultural challenges.
We have all made a promise to those who have signed up to serve. So I encourage my colleagues to support this nomination. I am hopeful the steps we are taking here this week on behalf of our Nation's heroes will finally ignite the much-delayed reforms our veterans have been demanding and they deserve.
I yield the floor.
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