VA secretary visits Leavenworth amid lawsuits, criticism of department

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LEAVENWORTH, Kan. -- Answering tough questions while asking for a chance to make things right; that was the message from the secretary of veterans affairs as he visited Leavenworth on Friday.

His visit fell in the middle of several lawsuits against the VA and a former hospital worker. Secretary Robert A. McDonald’s trip was to visit with veterans, explain more about his vision and changes in the VA. While he talked about those positives, he also didn't shy away from the tough stuff.

“He was immediately removed from patient care, which is critically important. We don't want our veterans exposed to that kind of thing,” said Secretary McDonald, speaking about 64-year-old Mark Wisner.

Wisner is facing sodomy, solicitation, and sexual battery charges after several patients claimed the physician's assistant molested them during medical appointments.

“Mr. Wisner left. He resigned. And he voluntarily gave up his medical license which is critically important because we don't want someone moving to a different facility,” the secretary said.

While Secretary McDonald answered all questions asked about the lawsuits, that wasn't the point of his trip.

“I appreciate the honesty of the veterans I spoke with and the opportunity to understand what's going on in their local communities,” he said.

McDonald talked about timely improvements in completed appointments since the VA crisis in 2014.

“We know that here in Kansas and across the nation, veterans are waiting too long to receive the care that they've earned through their service,” Secretary McDonald said.

He ended with a message to those concerned about the lawsuits, and more importantly, to all veterans: “Give us another chance. I mean, we are trying to create a VA healthcare system that every veteran can be proud of.”