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VA orders training review after ‘Oscar the Grouch’ incident

PHILADELPHIA – Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald on Thursday ordered a systemwide review of the agency’s training programs after the Philadelphia VA benefits office compiled an employee training guide that appeared to depict veterans as Oscar the Grouch.

In a statement, McDonald apologized and said any comparison to the cranky “Sesame Street” character who lives in a trash can was “clearly contrary” to the agency’s mission and the “kind of open culture we want in the new VA.” He said use of the training materials, which was first reported this week by the Philadelphia Inquirer, would be discontinued.

McDonald’s statement did not address the explanation offered by Diana Rubens, director of the city’s VA office, who insisted that a dozen Oscar references in the guide pertained not to irate or grumpy vets, but to VA employees who may have had to respond to their concerns.

A VA spokeswoman in Washington said McDonald would not elaborate on who was meant to be the misanthropic Muppet, employees or veterans.

“We celebrate feedback, both negative and positive, as an opportunity to improve our service to veterans and accomplish our mission,” McDonald said in the statement.