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Watertown native, Cleveland Clinic CEO Dr. Delos M. “Toby” Cosgrove declines VA role

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The search for the next Veterans Affairs secretary will continue without Watertown native Dr. Delos M. “Toby” Cosgrove, as he told the White House Saturday that he will remain at the Cleveland Clinic.

In a statement released by the hospital, Dr. Cosgrove said that he felt “humbled and honored” to be considered for the VA role, and that it was a decision “that deserved careful thought and consideration.”

“As a physician, veteran and hospital chief executive, I have great respect for the care provided to the veteran community and for those who work to care for them,” he said. “This has been an extraordinarily difficult decision, but I have decided to withdraw from consideration from this position and remain at the Cleveland Clinic, due to the commitment I have made to the organization, our patients and the work that still needs to be done here.”

Dr. Cosgrove, a 1958 graduate of Watertown High School, is president and chief executive officer of the clinic, one of the largest and most respected medical organizations in the country. It comprises eight community hospitals and 18 family health and ambulatory surgery centers.

News that Dr. Cosgrove, 73, was being considered for the role was published by the Wall Street Journal. The Wall Street Journal and The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, said that President Barack Obama first called Dr. Cosgrove on May 30, the same day that former Gen. Eric K. Shinseki resigned from the VA post amid mounting criticism of cover-ups regarding delays in care nationwide.

With a nationwide review of VA clinics underway, congressional lawmakers and local veterans have told the Times that the intentional scheduling delays plaguing the VA in Phoenix and other locations do not appear to be a problem in Northern New York.

VA statistics show average wait times for non-emergency care are longer than the department’s 14-day goal, but local industry advocates have said that the waiting times are consistent with area civilian options.

Had he accepted the role, Dr. Cosgrove would have joined Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh as a north country presence in a top military-related post.

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