Fox News Takes Up VA Secretary's Offer to Call, Gets Voicemail That's Full

November 12, 2015

Fox & Friends decided to take Veterans Affairs secretary Robert McDonald up on his offer to call his cell phone with any problems facing vets, and the hosts roared with laughter Thursday when a voice told them McDonald's mailbox was full.

Fox News co-host Steve Doocy called McDonald and waited as the phone rang for 20 seconds before it went to voicemail. Pete Hegseth of Concerned Veterans of America, a fill-in Fox News host, couldn't believe it.

"Are you kidding me?" Hegseth asked.

"Just like the VA. Just like the VA," Doocy said.

"Is there a more perfect and poignant example of the VA?" Hegseth asked. "Here's my number, give it a call; I'll help you out—I call, and the mailbox is full. That should be played on a loop. That, America, is what our veterans face from the bureaucracy that says they care. But when you actually go for care? Zip, nada, doesn't matter."

A recent report shows the VA doled out $142 million in bonuses to its employees in 2014, the same year the stunning scandal came to light that involved fake wait lists and the deaths of veterans waiting on health care. The public outcry resulted in the resignation of Eric Shinseki as VA secretary. CNN also reported in February on an internal VA audit showing more than 120,000 veterans waited or never got care.

Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck pointed out that bonuses were recently given out to facilities that had kept veterans from getting care, and she asked Hegseth what needed to be done to fix it.

"You have to actually hold people responsible," Hegseth said. "Allow people to be fired to change a culture, give bonuses to people who deserve it and then fire people who don't."

McDonald explained why he published his personal cell phone number last year during a speech in Washington, D.C.

"The reason? Because veterans struggle to connect with VA," he said. "Then, when they finally get connected, they discover they’re connected with only one of nine VA lines of business. Procter & Gamble was the first company to put 1-800 numbers on the back of its packages. We did so because we sought feedback, and we want to establish a similar customer service relationship at VA."