An open letter to America’s Veterans from Secretary Bob McDonald


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Sec. Bob McDonald visits Phoenix and Las Vegas VAMC

Bob McDonald

At the Department of Veterans Affairs, we have one of the most noble and inspiring missions in Government. I accepted this job and joined this mission to better serve you—our Veterans—and improve the delivery of the care and benefits you have earned. It is our privilege to serve you, and I have made clear that as we move forward as a Department, we will judge the success of all our efforts against a single metric—the outcomes we provide for Veterans.

The Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA), enacted less than three months ago, goes a long way toward enabling VA to meet the demand for Veterans health care in the short-term. VA has put considerable focus and attention on ensuring the law is implemented seamlessly, without confusion, and without creating hardships for Veterans. This legislation provides authorities, funding and other tools to better serve Veterans in the short-term. We are appreciative of this temporary measure to improve access while we build capacity within the VA system to better serve those who rely on us for health care.

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Choice Cards will allow Veterans to receive care outside of VA based on the distance of their residence from a VA care facility, or when wait times for VA health care exceeds the standards under the new law.

From June 1 to Sept. 30, 2014, VA completed more than 19 million Veteran appointments in our facilities and made nearly 1.1 million authorizations for Veterans to receive care in the private sector and other non-VA health facilities — a 46.6 percent increase over the same period in 2013. This was all done under existing programs prior to the passage of VACAA, and sets the stage for strengthening existing partnerships between VA and the private sector. We have much we can share with one another to the benefit of Veterans.

VA has signed contracts with two private health care companies to help VA administer the Veterans Choice Program under VACAA. The Choice Program is a new, temporary benefit allowing some Veterans to receive health care in their communities rather than waiting for a VA appointment or traveling to a VA facility. It does not impact your existing VA health care or any other VA benefit you may be receiving. We will begin implementing this benefit on Nov. 5, as required by law. A call center is now operational to answer your questions and verify your eligibility for this program.

As part of this new program, we are issuing a Veterans Choice Card to every Veteran who is potentially eligible for the new, temporary health benefit. The Choice Card allows Veterans to elect to receive care outside of VA when they qualify for the new program based on the distance of their residence from a VA care facility, or when wait times for VA health care exceed the standards established in law. The Choice Card does not replace the identification card you already use to access other VA benefits; please do not throw away that identification card.

Secretary McDonald

Secretary McDonald asks Veterans what can be done to make their VA better during one of his many site visits across the country.

The Choice Card will be issued in three phases. The first group of Choice Cards along with a letter explaining eligibility for this program is currently being sent to Veterans who may live more than 40 miles from a VA facility. The next group of Choice Cards and letters will be sent shortly thereafter to those Veterans who are currently waiting for an appointment longer than 30-days from their preferred date or the date determined to be medically necessary by their physician.

The final group of Choice Cards and letters will be sent between December 2014 and January 2015 to the remainder of all Veterans enrolled for VA health care who may be eligible for the Choice Program in the future.

We are continuing to work with our partners—Congress, Veterans Service Organizations, and others—to get the information about this health program out to Veterans in as many ways as possible. Please visit our Web site at www.va.gov/opa/choiceact where we have provided helpful information on Choice Program eligibility. We will work with our partners to keep you informed as we improve our delivery of high-quality, timely care.

Thank you for your service and sacrifice.

Sincerely,
Robert A. McDonald

Author

Bob McDonald

Comments

  1. David Figger    

    Ive been fighting to get a review of my disability for 2 years, the government said it’s under review or lost. I don’t have a representative near me. People wonder why service men go crazy, THIS IS WHY.

    1. Rheault.Kenneth    

      As a vet I wounder if your staff really cares I requested to see a VA Doc for or five times
      each time another form and another form ,then told to apply over sea only to find out
      thay have cant help me sent me back to were started from again ,told to fill out some more forms.I have spent all my saveing to include my life insurance getting medical
      help and recived ooooo support from VA when your a Vet overseas thay hope you just fad away or die so thay dont have to help.spent two tours in Vitnam hold two siliver stais
      and more awards just another number.All i wont is to see a vet Doc oversea.

      1. Tonya    

        Rheault Kenneth

        I want to start off by saying thank you for serving our country. My name is Tonya I work in one of the call centers in Louisiana. I can say I am here to help our veterans get in to see a doctor as fast as I can. I have a lot of family members that are veterans, so I know what our veterans are going through. With this program being new I hope that me and my team here in Louisiana can serve all of our veterans in the best way.

        1. Danny    

          Tonya, thank you for doing the best you can for trying to help those of us that have served our country.if the VA had more concerned and involvedpeople such as yourself they would not be in the mess they are in! please don’t give up on us!

      2. Patrick McDonald    

        Ask to see a doctor on May 2, 2014. Finally got an appt on August 20, 2014 and I am in the system.

      3. Steve    

        See your local DAV or VFW

    2. Donald Clayton    

      I know of two dishonorably discharged persons, both are got service connected disability from the Detroit Dept. of Veterans Affairs with in 30 days of applying….. One was discharged for drug use the other for too many blanket parties lost his teeth to a baseball bat!!!!!! And honorably discharged people only get the run around from the Detroit Dept. of Veteran affairs … Seems that the people who decides who gets service connected disability dislike veterans that served their country honorably!!!

      So it is the policy of the VA to serve dishonorably discharged persons better and faster than an honorably discharged people! And a lot of you feel that a dishonorably discharged person should come before an honorably discharged people when it comes to getting service from the VAs!!!

      This is the same office that lost my brother-in-laws file.. He served in Vietnam.. Ammo dump guard he was spared with AO daily,,,, He died in 1989 at the age of 38!!! VA still claim that AO had nothing to do with his early death!!!

    3. Nick Capone    

      Dear Sir,

      Please realize that while this program is making Veterans able to see a doctor in the private sector it is not fix the problem. Infact it is creating another problem for this Veteran. Now instead of actually getting appointments at the VA in Salem, Va I am getting non-VA healthcare. That shouldn’t be a problem but it is and the reason why is because the non-VA healthcare office at the Salem VA say they don’t have enough people. Ann Russo claims she is short handed but instead of sending my non-VA dental plan of care to dental at the Salem VA for approval she closed my dental orders.

      That is just one very sad example of what is taking place. I have been waiting months and months just to get approval for a damn appointment! How in the hell is this a fix? You went from not having enough doctors to see patients to now you don’t have enough staff to process this non-VA healthcare! So you see you can’t fix one problem by simply creating another! In business you would not emplement a new SOP unless you had everything ironed out to work smoothly.

      I am seriously ashamed that this is how you treat us! While your letter was heartwarming, it’s nothing but hot air and full of you know what. In the warfighter community we don’t believe in words, we believe in action! In other words stop all the big talk and get your butt to work cause you have a lot of damn work to do!

    4. James W. Huckfeldt    

      Hi David. I;m not sure where you live, but find your closest Regional Office website and it will list all the advocates for you to include VFW, DAV, WWP, American Legion and so forth. If VA tells you they lost your packet, call your Congressman or Senator to help.

    5. JW Huckfeldt    

      Hi David,
      I’m not sure which Regional Office (RO) your packet is located, but if you google that RO, there will be a wealth of resources at the bottom of the screen such as the VFW, American Legion, WWP and so on. If they tell you they lost your packet, call your senator or congressman immediately. And, if they did, in fact, lost it–call IG. That number is listed, too.

    6. C. Hill    

      I cannot understand why the VA will spend 10 billion dollars on this new “Choice” program when it already has (had) a “fee basis” program which did not require veterans to get any pre-approval from the VA before obtaining health care from a non-va provider if they lived more than 50 miles from the nearest facility and did not limit them to just 60 days for each care cycle. I believe instead of making more healthcare companies richer by entering into “contracts” with them to administer the newly funded program; veterans would have been better served if the VA simply earmarked and required each local administrator to implement the fee basis program fully in each region with this 10 billion dollars instead of leaving it up to their discretion to do so; which was the true crux of the problem. Again, more money down the drain; enriching big pharma and health care insurance groups and no better care opportunities for veterans. Ill veterans now will add several more layers of gate keepers to the hoops they already have to jump through in addition to potentially added wait times depending on the priorities of these new contracted health plan administrators.

      1. George Woodruff    

        To C. Hill…You think the VA should use the Fee Basis System? Fee Basis limits medical care to $125.00 per month/…if you can them to pay the bill. Fee Basis care in north Georgia got so bad in 2008-09 that Atlanta VMAC Fee Basis not only failed to pay the doctors but wouldn’t even answer their phone. I am 100% service connected rated P&T for many years and it took a Certified letter to President Obama to get the care I was entitled to. A couple of months after I sent that letter the Atlanta VAMC called me four times in a single day. I got a local eye exam. transportation to and from the VAMC to my home and some of the best care I have ever had from the VA. No veteran should have to go to those lengths to get the care they are entitled to. Bob McDonald, as VA Secretary, is doing a fine job of straightening this out but it will take time. I e-mailed him on a problem, got an answer right away, and the problem was corrected. Give the man a chance. Rome wasn’t built in a day! Until the Fee Basis system is straightened out (and it eventually will be) I wouldn’t give them a dime…much less 10 billion dollars!

    7. Mic Hunter    

      I am trying to find a mailing address to send Robert McDonald a letter about two issues. First, sexual assault in the services (I am the author of Honor Betrayed), and that one reason he can’t get more treatment providers is requiring an APA approved internship. There are not enough of these to go around, and because I didn’t have access to an APA approved internship I can’t apply even though I have 30 years of experience, have had three mental health licenses, taught at the graduate level, and authored and edited numerous books.

  2. lonnie dittemore    

    This is BS here in Richland, Washington the V A informed me there is no money for private sector.
    I need a knee replacement which is service connected but was informed I would have to travel to Boise Idaho to get this done.
    I can’t drive that far and I take care of my veteran brother who is house bound , I have to distribute his medicine and finances .

    1. JW Huckfeldt    

      Lonnie,
      Call Brian W. Westfield, MSN | (509) 527-3450
      Deborah S. McCormick | (509) 527-3450
      Charles G. Beleny, DO | (509) 527-3451
      Diana J. Nelson, MSN | (509) 527-3450

      These are the four administrators of your hospital. Call them and don’t stop calling until you get a solution. These are the decision makers.

  3. patrick jahnke    

    Veteran county service officer Can Not get NO from any VA hospital, or region offices, they get no info to help the veteran!! It getting harder for VSO help a vet out. I guess their building a brick walls around va hospital & va regional offices so all info stays within! Vets are passing away . with no help.

    1. JW Huckfeldt    

      For lack of better terminology, there is a new Sherriff in town and slowly but surly he is weeding out the bad apples while trying to make the VA more efficient and much simpler to operate. Tell me where you’re located and we’ll see if we can get you an answer to solve your issue.

  4. Richard M. Levine    

    I believe that the VAs failure to provide dental care for all veterans is unethical, if not criminal. Veterans can not be healthy if their teeth are rotted and they are in pain from mouth infections. For many years, I understand that the VA has even been denying the very few veterans who are eligible by law from these benefits.

    It is long past time that the VA understand the detrimental effect they are having on the health of many veterans by not providing this care. They can never be called a world-class medical provider without offering this care to all veterans.

    I also understand that the Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Senator Bernie Sanders is planning to submit a bill to provide dental for all enrolled veterans. Unfortunately, the prognosis is that this bill has only a 33% chance of passing.

    1. Richard M. Levine    

      In many areas if the country, the $1000 maximum in dental coverage under the Bernie Sander’s bill might only get a few cleanings and x-rays. It may represent another promise not kept for our veterans. There are many veterans up there in age, and their dental care can be many times this $1000.

      In my case, I am facing a $6,000 and up possible bill for only two teeth. If I received care under this bill passing, would the VA dentist do 1/6th of the work necessary over a 6-year period?

      1. LOUIS ARANDA    

        Yes, Richard, older people may need significant amount of dental care, i. e. periodontal care. I spent some $ 12K just on that. Dental care should be provided to service connected disabled veterans. I also agree with you Richard, that VA benefits can be doled out without a sense of fairness. I know of a vet who only served for 2 months and he gets full medical services. Such is life. It should be said, though, that medical care at the VA facility I go is improving of late, significantly.

    2. william jones    

      GOP in charge any VET bill passing slim

      1. John McCarey    

        I have noticed all of the bills passed by the demo that have helped the vets.

    3. Stephanie    

      I have missing teeth from service. I’m not going to get into details but the way I lost them was horrible and traumatic. I have been fighting for 10 years to get them replaced. Finally found out that not only am I missing the teeth but a huge amounts of bone. They took one look at the x-rays and denied me implants and bone grafts. Why? I don’t know, I heard something that the space is too big. I didn’t even get to see or talk to the head dentist that reviewed my x-rays and files. When you sign the contract you know that you might die in service and you are ok with that, but what you don’t know is that you might be scared/disabled for life.

    4. Michael Wood    

      Youre absolutely right and ive said this for years. If youre not 100% disabled, and alot of vets are close to it and alot should be given the rating, then youre screwed when it comes to dental. And when I went to check on premiums for delta dental and other options, i was stunned at the cost. I cant afford that. And youre right, bad teeth means low self esteem, depression (and I already have depression and chronic panic disorder) so im doubly screwed. But I have been able to sneak in a little bit of help from the army base that WAS here, now its closed. Im a retired US Army sgt veteran. But lately I have had alot of problems with my teeth, and very depressed about it actually and lets face it, if you loose your smile, youve lost alot of yourself.

    5. JW Huckfeldt    

      I’m not fluent with the Dental system. Let me look into this and I will get back to you.

  5. Ira D Jinkins    

    Sir,
    You may want to contact Alpha Veterans Disability Association. I tried some service organization, contacted my state and federal officials to no avail to receive my earned VA benefits. After contacting Alpha within 6-9 months I was awarded my VA Disability Compensation. Alpha is operated by and for veterans. Please give them a try, it worked for me and I waited for close to 20 years to get my earned benefits. Don’t give up, this is what some VA representatives want veterans to do.

    1. JW Huckfeldt    

      Ira,
      As a disabled Veteran, I know the difficulties of the C&P system.

      Would you mind editing your comment and provide a phone number for Veterans to use? Thanks for suggesting this awesome resource.

  6. Ira D Jinkins    

    David, you may want to try Alpha Veterans Disability Association. They helped me within 6-9 months of me contacting them.

  7. Alan B. Cote    

    There’s no mention about those of us who are too sick to travel 100 miles to get to appts

  8. Floyd H. Strader    

    The VA is still behind the times. Each VA that has a dental dept. is wasting taxpayer and veterans funds. The strict rules for a veteran to get dental care is outdated and stupid. There are many vets who have dental problems and are not able to get any assistance from the VA because of the strict rules. Most of the dental departments are just for show – only have maybe 50-75 patients a year and maybe only see a patient once or so a week or month. The rest of the time they are just setting around. I believe that any veteran that is 50 percent or more should have dental care. And those with medical conditions that warrant it – or lack of funds for outside help – should be able to get care. As a Vietnam vet with a 60 percent heart condition private dental clinics have a problem treating me – if I could even afford it – which on a limited income I could not. So if the VA wants to be a little more Veteran wise – review and change the Dental rules – and do not feed the old story – only congress can do it – the VA can get congress to do it very quickly – if they wanted to and would. All Veterans need to let their congress people know about this and send the VA a note also.

    1. Owens Earl Jr    

      While I agree with you about the Dental Care I disagree with the percentage in fact all Honorable Discharge should have Free Dental there should never be a percentage or anything els. on what you gave up to service as long as you were Honorable Discharge

  9. jerry mlynek    

    I hate the facility I go to in Surprise Az. Getting refills for medications is such a hassle . MY team will not return calls even when asked to do so. I have a low opinion of VA health care and prefer to go to outside doctors….so sad.

  10. Jalica    

    Mr. McDonald,

    You offer hope to some but to many others, they cannot believe because of the time it stripped their life from finding support!

    I am an Air Force widow who felt the atrocity of Veterans agencies here in the south…Congress is still the boss, and many of us are considered, isolated incidents of no consequence…Maybe some have lost their mental faculties and cannot demonstrate any other way but their voice of bitterness…This is America…!

    1. JW Huckfeldt    

      Jalica,

      Secretary McDonald does inspire hope for change. I can tell you he works tirelessly to help Veterans in any way possible. He started the ICARE initiative with sustainable accountability. He’s making websites easier to access and standardizing forms so we’re not inundated with paperwork. For this to work, he needs our support. We can’t let the bitterness of the old regime tarnish his charge. It can only work when all Veterans come together and support him so we can all benefit. He just needs a little time.

  11. ERROL R. BRUMM    

    I have been fighting VA so long my shrink has told me to let it go before you destroy yourself. Now I call curious because of what the KDVA rep did to my claims of 2009 and appeals . Which VA closed . No one seemed to know why. When I finally got my Rep who was retiring to tell me he sent me a document 4138 with a hand written note on the bottom . STATING THESE WERE ALL MY OPEN CLAIMS AND i WANTED ANY AND ALL APPEALS CLOSED. NOT MY SIGNATURE AND CERTAINLY NOT MY HAND WRITING. Then I spoke to him a couple days after he sent this information and he Retired. Items on a approved claim were to be opened on a new claim and it was placed on appeal. Spoke to the KDVA last week and she told me it would not even be looked at for 7 to 10 years. Thank you VA. If I could show a honest DRO what fraudulent , things were done to me over the past years I’m certain action would have to be taken . Sir you have a massive job to do. Just one person for a day to look at the mess VA has made of my cases by lying, fraudulent paper work lost records. I am 70 years old. I served my country for 26 years 4 months. The Louisville VA is prejudiced in my case and my Old Rep before retirement told me so. This is a terrible situation. Unless you can take some action to correct it pray I die soon for I am not a good advertisement for the VA. Please don’t harass me or my family as happened in the past. Even Christmas Eve 2010. Please. I am a honest person and give straight forward honest answers with evidence of Mal practice on the part of VA and Individuals working for the VA Doctor etc. Thank you good luck with your future endeavors.

    1. John G.    

      Errol. my PCP wants to medicate me for all my issues because he is new and is trying to do the right things. Realized that I some serious issues.

    2. JW Huckfeldt    

      Errol,

      Use the Title 38, CFR–The same manual used to adjudicate your claims. Build your case with the VA’s laws and policies. You can have any case reopened. Google the leadership team at the KDVA and copy them on emails. Get IG involved if need be. Call your congressman or senator. Get decision-makers in the mix because the authority figures in place either are dedicated to the mission or love their job enough to not gamble on losing it. Tell EVERYONE after you draft your response. This will help your DRO out immensely.

  12. John Swetman    

    I will still have no faith in the Denver Regional Office. They screwed me and now they are trying to screw my son.

    1. JW Huckfeldt    

      How so. Let’s see if I can help you both fix it or at least point you in the right direction. John, I promise you and your son that if you have the evidence, it can be used. You just need the proper tools.

  13. Ricky eppard    

    Total knee replacement June 9 2014. Submitted claim June 13 2014. Still under review what is taking so long . This should be easy claim it was done at va . 100 percent disability for year. I don’t understand what is taking so long. I reckon it will get approved after I loose my house and mode of transportation.

  14. ROBERT JESUS FLORES    

    the only way that anything will ever change is if someone (leadership) looks at the rules n fixes them. Doc (20 said my disability is related to my service connected diabetes, a clerk overrode them n said nope ur disability is related to ur strokes therefore ur claim is denied. took a year for that, now i must again prepare an appeal while it sits at someones desk. I feel for everyone who has issues with the VA. My file was lost 2 times n no one has compensated me for my family being out in the street. Yep I am angry but not crazy.It really does not take a lot of thinking to be treating every vet fairly n with “due process”.

    1. JW Huckfeldt    

      Collect everything you have in writing. Reference the 38 CFR that the VA uses to adjudicate your claim. That manual spills it all out. Start by collecting your facts and matching those facts against the VA guide. You’ll be shocked by what you find.

  15. maurice wyman scott    

    Secretary i believe you and the previous general to be honorable men, but unfortunately that honor isnt on the ground, especially in columbia regional office. So ive decided to take a different path, expose those who have done wrong to me not by number but by name. I have a pending local appeal and a bva appeal where in front of the national press im going to argue the facts that specific ppl destroyed my medical records to prevent a approval, and now those same ppl have been elevated so now directing staff to say they have looked at medical records that dont exist. The only way we change the va is to put nsmes on those who deceive veterans.

    1. John G.    

      let me know when you start. I retired through that office and filed my original claim there. And now my documents are missing for my original NOD and VA-9 from 2003 so that my appeal can be corrected to the original date of filing.

    2. JW Huckfeldt    

      Formulate your appeal using the title 38 CFR. It’s the book that adjudicates approvals and denials. Use that manual to build your case. Also, google the C&P Service Clinician’s Guide to help with your arguments. Arguing on principle or proof won’t get you far. Argue with the VA rules and you’ll most likely come out on top.

  16. Emanuele Corso, PhD    

    Mr. McDonald – do you know that there is no system in place, either email, telephone, or post that provides an address to write to you directly? If you sincerely want to know what vets have to say and want to hear from them directly this information needs to be readily and conveniently available. You will not succeed without hearing directly – you can’t achieve your stated goals in an echo chamber.

    1. Sandra Demoruelle    

      Sec. McDonald gave Washington Post his cellphone # as 513/509-8454.

    2. Danny    

      I too which challenge Mr McDonald to personally contact some of the veterans that post blogs to this site.each veteran has to make available their email address before posting a blog, therefore we know there is a way for him to contact us. With all due respect secretary McDonald I would be happy to speak with you and then publicly acknowledge the fact that we had a conversation and that you are truly reaching out to the everyday veteran.

    3. JW Huckfeldt    

      Emanuele,

      Secretary McDonald did provide his phone number. Secretary McDonald was battling Congress, firing top executives and taking serious heat from a lot of folks…and amongst all that, he helped me save my vision from legal blindness. This man is true to his word. He’s earned my loyalty and when I join the VA team in a few weeks, it’s my mission to help one Veteran at a time. He is a leader in every sense of the word. Email me if you’d like his work address to send him mail. However, I urge you to contact the directors of the VHCS where you are and say simply that if they won’t help you, you’ll go higher up the chain.

  17. John G.    

    I have three complaints that I need assistance with:
    First, I have been waiting for over 4 months to get C&P exams scheduled that are required by the VA to complete my current application and to substantiate my appeal that has been pending. I am told that the PCP Dr assigned to me by the VA cannot complete the C&P or DBQ’s required as part of my claim. I am also told that I cannot schedule the appointments I need and have to wait for the regional office to schedule them. The same VA office that is telling me that my documentation is late and overdue. Unacceptable
    Second I cannot complete 3 different FDC’s online due to computer errors since Mar 2014. I have tried almost 100 times to complete them and keep getting error messages. I have talked to all 3 VA response numbers, submitted numerous IRIS complaints and spoken to the magic helpdesk on many occasions (including today) and the last thing I’m being told is to call back in 3 weeks to see what we can do. Unacceptable
    Third, I was just told that my appeal that is pending is estimated to take another 2 years. Even though the claim is for a Clear and Unmistakable Error claim that the VA has already admitted they made the mistake in their response letter to me from over 2 years ago. Why should it take this long and I why am forced to fight an appeal process that is designed to stall veterans to get a correction made and get backpay for an admitted VA error. VA admits that they should have granted compensation and backdated the disability but didn’t backdate the percentage granted to the original date of the claim which was in 2003 when I retired. Unacceptable
    So I it possible that there are still so major issues that need to be fixed……and I am only 1 veteran.

    1. Michael Wood    

      …I KNOW what should happen. Vets with problems, or all vets that want to participate, should get together or link up and plan some protests against the attrocious matter. Im retired from the US Army and I must tell you, Im about to lose my mind as well. I need 5 surgeries coming up, my stress level and anxiety is off the charts, and I already have Chronic depression and panic disorder, GREAT…..I cant walk, I cant work, I lost my job over here in germany to base closure. Oh I KNOW, ITS NOT THE VA’s problem that I lost my job, BUT IM STILL A VETERAN and whenever you go to check on things, you cant tell whos working for who, and I havent been treated well on the phone. Im not gonna let the VA employees give me a hard time ANYMORE, im done. They work for us, we dont work for them, I dont think they get that, we are why they have a job, DUH From now on, there gonna get it right back in their face…tired of it.

      1. Danny    

        I think the veterans do need to organize and protest nation wide! That is in our constitutional rights. I would be happy to start organizing a protest in arizona..but let’s not forget we have to do it legally peacefully and with in the law. We have to do it simultaneously. We also have to find a way to do it with out using this official government site. I have seen others leave email addresses and phone numbers on this site. I will check this blog on Saturday to see if anyone has replied to my comments. I believe it is time we come together as brothers and sisters.

    2. Michael Wood    

      Hey john, they seem to group the claims together, so i can see how you had problems. It happened to me. I submitted some claims, that a little later, some more and they closed the later ones out and just added them to my other ones. Thats the only thing i know to tell you on that part. And as far as getting scheduled,,,it takes forever, trust me, you just have to stay on top of things, fight with them, try to be patient. But they dont realize how difficult trying to be patient really is, when youre suffering, like alot of vets are and were suffering becaise of being in the military, serving our country, doing what were told, going where were told to go, and suffer many hardships that we DONT want to suffer, but we do it for our country. THEN, when we try to use the broken system, it drives us all nuts, but they dont understand that. I think vets should band together and demand things…that’s the only way anything is going to happen, because some of us will BE DEAD by the time they process our claims and take care of us and that’s totally unacceptable. During all these years, the VA could have expanded, but NO,,,,lets take a chance that we can handle all the vets that come at us, respectfully, humanely, decently and efficiently…….OOOOOOOPS HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM,,,what a joke. You know, we couldve put a homeless veteran (which there are over 600,000 on any given nite) in charge of the VA and got better results.

    3. JW Huckfeldt    

      Contact the hospital and RO administrators and tell them about the problems youre facing. if they won’t listen, then mention you’ll discuss your issues with the director of C&P. The director of C&P is a former Infantryman and artillery officer. He will help if the other offices do not.

  18. Tracy    

    They are taking away our right to adequate & proper treatment since shinseki resigned. How much more do we have to take? I’m bout done with the whole thing. VA only wants to treat people for certain conditions not our true conditions. It’s sad and it’s pathetic, since they don’t want to prescribe my meds I’m left with having to turn to other places.

    1. JW Huckfeldt    

      Research your condition under 38 CFR and relate it to your service. It’s their law and policy manual. See if that works for you.

  19. Brian    

    More like he accepted this job to further his political status and get the pay raise. He doesn’t give a shit about the veterans, just like all the rest who’ve come before him. If he wanted to fix the shit, you would have notice some drastic changes already. For starts, the management would be replaced right from the get-go. Someone who allows dates to be changed just so they can look like the work load is light and is being dealt with, should have been let go immediately. Instead, I see no names being dropped and the problem continuing.

    I was out of work for 7 years due to a lower back injury. Not only did they push me aside until I got the state rep, and congressman involved, but they waited to fix it via surgery until the 6 years were up. On top of that, I lived practically homeless, ruining the lives of my relatives during that period with the constant badgering for money to eat and pay the bills. Now I’m going through the process again…its only been 2 or 3 years now being pushed aside.

    I fight with my primary care nurse every month for my medication. I call 2 to 5 times the week prior to the date it is due and they still deny, deny, deny that I called because the nurse failed to record the phone calls. I literally have to go down there every single month and cause a ruckus just to get my medication processed. Anyway….

    TL;DR – the VA sucks and will always suck unless the system is changed.

    1. JW Huckfeldt    

      Hi Brian,

      Most of Secretary McDonald’s executive team is new to their respective offices. Drastic changes don’t happen overnight and we owe it to Secretary McDonald to help him make the VA better. He’s not a politician. He’s a Veteran, just like you and I. He’s a self-made millionaire who is a retired CEO of one of America’s most successful companies (P&G). He doesn’t need the paycheck and he surly doesn’t need the headaches that come with the storm he’s inherited.

      Forms are getting standardized. He’s removing the cancers that made the VA a terrible institution. He’s dedicated to our cause of helping Veterans. I begged this man for help because I’m close to legally blind from service. He’s personally texted me past midnight and as early as 4 a.m.

      As for the most senior cancers needing removal, he’s doing so very carefully to ensure that no appeal will hold up and that no severance be paid. There is a lot of litigation that goes on with firing an executive, but canning her now and paying millions later because a mistake was made would be inexcusable. I’m sure you’d agree.

      And you’re right, the VA does suck and it’s made our nation’s heroes bitter. That bitterness only makes Secretary McDonald’s mission more difficult. He wants to fix the problem and I’m with him 100%. He’s identified dozens of problems and is addressing them. He needs people like you to offer suggestions on how to make it better.

      I’m sorry about how you’ve been treated for the last seven years. I think it’s appalling to have one of our heroes treated like you have been.

      Have you contacted the Hospital’s administrators to help resolve the issue? If you haven’t kindly write them an email or calmly explain in a phone call your situation and propose solutions to help fix the complications. Having a solution to put in place is a lot easier than telling them your problems and leaving them to solve it.

      I hope this helps and I truly hope you help and support Secretary McDonald as he tries to change the VA through his values-driven leadership rather than the process oriented institution the VA has become. Without your support, his mission becomes that much more difficult.

  20. Eddie D. Baca    

    It seems that the out cry for service and response is still an issue at hand with many of the Veterans that served in Viet Nam, we file a claim and it just sits there it seems so easy to say that you dont qualifiy; I filed a claim for service connected injury from Viet Nam in Feb 2014 and all I get is” we are still working your claim thank you” you know we keep hearing how well the system has changed but soneone is being blind folded and not really looking at the real world out hear. I respect your position but real is real and we can not change it out here, those folks that work in some of these clinics and hospitals forget that they are there to help not make judgement anyways I needed to get that off my chest and see where t his may go .

  21. Russell    

    I wish that dental was covered through the va. I am not service connected for anything dental but had “a lot” of root canals and a few crowns out in that broke after discharge. I have good outside insurance but it would still cost me a very large amount to get them fixed. It is disheartening to see and hear a lot of older vets still waiting to be compensated and be given the treatment that they deserve and have earned. The system is broke and it has taken them too long to realize this. Our words go on deaf ears unless we were the ones holding their checks back. It starts from the top and needs to be fixed all the way down. There are many good staff but many more not so good that are there for a pay check. It would be outstanding if a prerequisite to work there would be to have served in the military.

  22. Denise Maras    

    I know that many of our vets struggle to get the help they so richly deserve. I just wanted to thank the Minneapolis, MN VA for the wonderful care they provided my father, WWll veteran Peter Sonnek. Dad really looked forward to the days that he had an appointment.
    He lived about 100 miles from the VA so he rode up on the “vet van” provided by the the Blue Earth, MN office. It would be a long day for dad, but he really enjoyed visiting with the other vets. And he loved the food in the cafeteria. I just wanted to let someone know that not all experiences are bad and I am so grateful for the care and concern my dad received. Thank you, Denise Maras

    1. Danny    

      Ms. Maras, I have said it in other blogs, & I will say it to you, I worked at the Minneapolis VA for a few years and I was a patient there as well. Your father is fortunate to have been at one of the best VA facilities in this country! If the VA really wanted a role model for other facilities, I would whole heartedly suggest they look at the Minneapolis VA!

  23. GERALDFD STRONG JR    

    MY DAD GERALD E STRONG SR DIED JANUARY 4 TH BECAUSE OF POOR
    HEALTHCARE AND DELAYS OF CARE
    AT MONTOGEMERY,ALABAMA AND Y’ALL
    ARE NOT DOING NOTHING ABOUT IT.NO INVESTAGTION.WHAT ABOUT IT BOB
    HELP MY FAMILY BOB.CALL ME

    1. JW Huckfeldt    

      Mr. Strong,

      I’m truly sorry for your loss.

      I believe an investigation is ongoing within the Alabama HCS and that the director there was relieved not long ago. I may be incorrect so please forgive me if I am.

      You have every right to be pissed off and frustrated. I would be too, if I were in your situation. However, I think a better course of action for you would be to contact the Alabama VA OIG and speak with the investigators who are looking into this. If they aren’t looking into it, they should be and you should file a claim. You should also call the hospital administrators to make them give your father’s passing another look.

      I hope this course of action helps you.

  24. GERALDFD STRONG JR    

    ALSO BOB MY AGENT ORANGE CLAIMS FOR MY FAMILY.GERALD STRONG JR AND
    STEPHEN STRONG AND BARBARA FORD(STRONG)

    1. JW Huckfeldt    

      Mr. Strong,

      Please call me on Sunday, November 9th at 609-947-6203 between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. and perhaps I can provide you with some guidance to getting these claims adjudicated. I have a hearing disability so if I don’t hear the call, I will call right back.

  25. Mike Rauch    

    I was wounded sixty-four years ago, I have PTSD and TBI. I live forty-two miles from the VA. Will I get an access card? I think you forgot the old Vets.

  26. Lloyd Bardell    

    How many years must one Vet wait until she gets her benefits? How many years does it take until they can see the light? Do the Right at the VA?

    For me – 11 years is an indication of the truth about how the system fails entirely.

  27. Lloyd Bardell    

    When the Military and the Veterans Affairs Agency fail a veteran by not providing that veteran with the benefits to which that veteran has a right – this has a devastating impact upon that veteran’s entire life. That veteran incurs financial hardships, credit hardships, health hardships that could have been averted, et cetera. In my case, I can graph, using the data from my social security earnings record, from the period of service until the present and demonstrate an immense impact on my employment record over the years of a condition caused while in service. It is a shame! It is a Crime.

  28. James W. Huckfeldt    

    Change takes time. Secretary McDonald will implement the necessary changes but it won’t happen overnight. Yes, the VA has significant problems. Those problems are being addressed while VA employees are still working. Secretary McDonald needds our support to make this work.

    We all have complaints but provide a rational method to fix the overall problem nationwide. That’s how change works. I support Secretary McDonanld and he’s getting beat up pretty bad by Congress and others.

    If you’re being treated wrongly, file an IG complaint. That’s how to get the Regional Offices to listen to you.

    1. Danny    

      Mr. Huckfeldt, it is good to hear a voice of reason. I took out my anger on secretary McDonald in another blog, but then tried to make it up to him by replying to my own blog and offering a sincere apology. In that apology I gave secretary McDonald my word that I would never disrespect him again. My word is the only thing nobody can ever take from me, and I have given that to Mr McDonald. Our brother and sister backgrounds are angry and are hurting and so many times anger comes out in a way that we do not in our hearts understand our selves.I despise the way veterans are being treated by the Veterans Administration, but in my heart I am trying to give Mr McDonald the benefit of the doubt I pray that he is truly doing his best to make it better for those of us that have served the greatest country in the world.

      1. JW Huckfeldt    

        Hi Danny,

        Most Veterans are angry and they are taking their frustrations out on Secretary McDonald. We have a right to be bitter and he knows that and he is definitely working ridiculous hours trying to repair a system that’s broken from the ground up. As a disabled Veteran, I think we all have two options, we can continue to be bitter because I’ve been wrongly adjudicated for close to a decade or we can put that bitterness aside and come together as one unit and fix the problems together. He needs our support. Without it, he’ll fail. If he fails, we don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of getting another leader like Secretary McDonald. He wants to be here and he wants to right this ship and guide it out of the storm.

        Frankly speaking, I trust very few people at the VA but I’d follow Secretary McDonald anywhere. Think about how tough his job is at the moment. He’s already started relieving senior executions. That puts everyone on notice and makes him less popular all around. Then he deals with bitter Veterans because he put his number out to the public. The way I figure it is we can either sink together or succeed together. I prefer the latter and am willing to put my bitterness aside to help do my part to make the VA better.

    2. Richard M. Levine    

      The IG office would not take my complaint regarding dental care. I now have very little confidence in them.

  29. Lloyd Bardell    

    The VA knows that a denial at the first level is mostly permanent without cause – it practices as an insurance company and denies any case, including covered cases, that it believes to be fraudulent – most cases that is. Once this happens there is almost no chance of obtaining benefits and for all practical purposes is a permanent de facto denial – even for those cases in error. There are only 65 or so BVA judges to handle appeals and about 50% of these appeals are sent into an endless remand cycle with the RO wherein the RO has been found to make errors in 75% of the cases so that the cycle is literally endless with no due process. Furthermore, it intentionally creates these backlogs –

  30. JBEsau    

    It is unthinkable there are so many in need of care they cannot get or in a time-frame that is medically necessary! Shame on the U.S. Government for THAT!

    However, THANK YOU from a Vietnam combat veteran to all the professionals and staff and volunteers at the West Palm Beach Florida VA!!! I feel much better cared for than when I had expensive private insurance provided by generous employers for nearly 40 years. Thank you, too, to the Boca RATON CBOC. You guys are OUTSTANDING!

  31. Janet ApplingUp until last Sept. I didn't have any big complaints about the VA    

    Up until Sept. 2013, I didn’t have any real complaints about the VA. I needed a hip replacement and was told to lose 30 lbs. before it could be done. Having lost the 30 lbs. I made an appointment and just before the date I received a call telling me that I had been cancelled . I was told I would have to wait at least a year more. I ended up having the hip replaced locally and my surgeon said it was inhumane to ask me to wait any longer because the joint was in such a deteriated state and the pain was horrendous. when the bill was submitted to the VA it was denied.
    Now I’m facing another dilemma. I broke my foot on Sept 20th a Sat urday. I saw the ortho specialist the following Wednesday. A Rx was written for bilateral claw boots to be made and it was faxed to my CBOC. When I didn’t hear from the VA medical center in 2 weeks, I called to check on the status. The Rx had been filed and no one did anything with it until I called and got the run-around between prosthetics and physical therapy. I was then told that an estimate had to be submitted before anything else could be done. I made an appointment on my own for the casting of the molds for the boots. The estimate sent and approval was sent for 1 boot only, more time wasted. Meanwhile my both broken feet ar healing on their own and deformed. I’m not scheduled to get my boots until Dec., that is 2 1/2 months after the break. I can no longer walk. This is how the VA treats its veterans.

  32. william Ashmore    

    not to upset every one but the VA medical has been fantastic for me and my AO diabetes Ann ischemic cardiomyopathy heart problems the Decatur/Atlanta VA hospital has been wonderful. Within the last 8 weeks three heart Caths and 8 stents. That makes 23 stents so far, and the Doctors and Nurses have been wonderful.
    Now the problem is getting my compensation started because of AO, before the big one hits me, this process has to be sped up there is no reason to drag this process out like the VA does!

  33. Brian Bostick    

    Thank you for the changes you have made thus far. I am a patient and Disabled Veteran who uses the VA Hospital in Tucson, AZ. It is amazing to see the willingness to help that is prevalent in every department at the Tucson, VA. I walk through the halls and am asked several times if I need assistance. People are pleasant and willing to help. There has been hurdles with appointment times, etc. I have though ween a drastic improvement in responsiveness and scheduling times. No system is perfect, but the Tucson, VA really stands out as a superior facility in my book.

  34. Robin Werner    

    Lost me as soon as you stated…judge ourselves by
    Veterans outcomes…as for me…so far outcome good…the horrendous battle to get this so far so good…outcome…due to ignoring what’s going on right in front of everyones face…please do not judge that way judge by overall performance…per individual vet…leading up to an outcome…my soon to be released…records produced by y’all..they show one of the biggest cases of unkind,uncompassionate,mean,painful,neglect I thought wasn’t even possible in this country…yes already on local news….complete with misquotes…no I did not retire from the navy…yes my story will be heard…every single word…with legal representation…seems unnecessary since the pages of my chart say most of what happened….every time…letters saying benefits ending cuz I was in prison…lie…a letter with the deceased box is checked with my name on it…lie…charged for trip and surgery at another hospital…ambulance choose where not me…they knew I wanted to go to VA…most recently…a very diseased gallbladder found in 04…came in way to many times in pain…nothing…in Feb.of this year…I was told it would be removed may 7 of this year…3 month wait…for the biggest pain I have ever known…the hundreds of people that witnessed my pain and your neglect….sorry will not cut it…I intend to take this up every flagpole in the nation…like a PitBull…I will legally do everything I can…until I am legally satisfied…with your messed up inhumane treatment of me….and yes…alll charted…so…no…I didn’t read the rest of your letter…i will wait for my final outcome….and no worries about my mental health part of the Wellness program for years and years…so no worries…just mad with a reason….

  35. Larry Osgatharp    

    I would like to see dental benefits for veterans that are in the system. It should be the same way that the health care is done. If you have a copay for VA, then a copay for dental. Those who are over 50% disabled should have free dental. I had many veneers put in while I was in the military and now they are all chipping and falling apart and I cannot afford to get them fixed. The veneers I had done while I was in are only supposed to last for 5 years. That is what the military dentists chose to do with my teeth, and now I am not covered and my teeth are falling apart. My mouth constantly hurts from them beginning to rot and I cannot afford decent dental insurance. I know there are many other veterans that have the same situation.

  36. Steve Jackson    

    Elimanate the VA! Make Tricare open to all Vets Problem solved!

    1. Zofia Sisco    

      Unfortunately making Tricare available to all wouldn’t help either. I currently have Tri-Care prime from my AD husband…he will be gone for the next year at least so I moved back home. Only to be told the closest person that will take Tricare Prime is 80 miles away and if I want services closer to me I need to go down to Tricare Standard and start paying out of pocket…that is makes no sense to me. How am I being punished for having good coverage and being forced to lower my coverage and pay out of pocket. It is greedy service providers who are taking advantage of us and it pisses me off because that is not how any of our military people present or past should be treated.

  37. Hermon    

    A couple of months ago the new Secretary said that the Reno VA needed approximately 400 new people and the VA here in Las Vegas needed approximately 500 new people. What did we get instead, a hiring freeze! Tell me Mr. Secretary how is that hiring freeze going to better serve our veterans!

    1. Danny    

      if they hire the people that are neededhow are the directors and even there secretaries going to get there big bonuses? that should be the first program cut from the whole VA curriculum! nobody in the entire VA system should get a bonus until every veteran is taken care of.

      1. JW Huckfeldt    

        Hi Danny,

        Secretary McDonald suspended all bonuses for at least a year.

        1. Danny    

          Thank You Mr. Huckfeldt, and please know that I applaud this effort. However, I will reiterate the focal point of my initial comment, there should be NO bonuses until this mess at the VA is straightened out and virtually all veterans are being properly cared for!I have friends that work at my local VA, one in particular has worked there for 10 years and has seen the director on the floor twice during that 10 years. Yet the directors are making above ten to fifteen thousand dollars a year, plus tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses! Some of them earning this kind of money while my brothers and sisters are dying on their watch! To me and I’m sure to many of our brothers and sisters this is unacceptable! By the way sir, thank you for using your public relations experience to answer our questions. You are the first person that I have seen officially or semi officially try to answer questions on this blog site. God bless you!

        2. Danny    

          if I have learned nothing else, I’ve learned to double check what I tell my phone to print. In my above comment my phone misprinted what I think I said. For example, the local news reported that the director of the Phoenix VAMC received $170,000. per annum, plus a bonus of (I believe) $9,900. this in spite of the fact that our? Government was aware of the fact that veterans were dying on his watch.
          SECRETARY MCDONALD, IT IS NOT YOU I DOUBT – I HAVE A HARD TIME TRUSTING THE GOV’T YOU REPRESENT.

  38. Patrick McDonald    

    The biggest part of the VA system that has problem is the paperwork side in the regional offices. Give these people a break and reduce the number of percentage categories. You have 0% to 100% with 2 types of 100% with step increases by 10%. They are under so much pressure to slot people in the correct step. This causes the system to get stopped up and creates backlog. Put a cap also on the money an attorney can make representing a veteran. Social Security does this and there is no problem.

    1. JW Huckfeldt    

      Hi Patrick,

      It’s my experience that the system is backlogged because authorities look to deny claims. The VA will continue to deny claims and the backlog will continue and continue. I’m not advocating that all claims get approved, but I feel the officials adjudicating the claims and appeals are too quick to deny. I’ve read the 38 CFR and can tell you laziness does exist in the C&P.

  39. Tom horvath    

    Thank you Mr Secretary for trying to fix problems it took the bureucracy years to make. Other good people tried and made a difference: Jesse Brown and Ken Kizer about 20 years ago, until the VA did become the ” best care anywhere” . ( it would help if you referred to that independent investigative journalist) . But weak successors then let it slide down once again. Failure to advocate for veterans, failure to ask for staff when needed, and falsifying data and persecuting whistle blowers brought us to a new low.
    Yet it seems the bureucracy ( national leadership board, the very people who supervised this cluster FUBAR) once again will run rings around the token leadership of a sincere Secretary. I heard they decided they did not need more mental health staff, ( despite the thousands of combat vets who can’t get evid nce based care for PTSD) and will be allowed once again to use the money given by Congress as they want it ( yes, they need more Staff assistants to the directors, and more non working supervisors and data managers, not working stiffs on the front line of care….)
    Finally, VA staff working for the Secretary, it is reprehensible you don’t answer these heart felt cries I just read.
    From a physician, 12 years in Army Reserves and 40 years in the VA. I ALWAYS replied to my patients.

  40. Tom horvath    

    Thank you for trying, Mr Secretary. Other sincere people tried and succeeded for a while ( Jesse Brown and Ken Kizer almost 20 years ago) but then the bureucracy took over and it became business as usual . It disturbs me that your staff is not responding to the comments: in 40 years of practice in the VA I always replied to my patients. Even to those whose anger/ frustrations reduced them to name calling. They DID serve their country, and deserve a response. I am afraid that the bureucracy will choke your good intentions, and will make you repeat statistics that are unreliable at best, and false at worst.
    Intentions speak louder than nice words. I just heard that the National Leadership Board ( the very people who presided over this last cluster FUBAR) decided they did not need more mental health staff ( despite the fact that less than 20 % of combat veterans with PTSD have received evidence based care) and they will be allowed to use the money appropriated by Congress for mental health to use as they see fit ( this usually means more staff assistants to the directors, more data ( mis) managers, more non working coordinators and supervisors, and usually less docs and nurses. ( been there, seen that over 4 decades)
    Mr Secretary : have you not seen this sickness among managers in your business dealings? Have you not in fact slimmed their ranks in your succesful career? Have you not applied the West Point Honor Code the way it should be—something unfamiliar to a lot of VA ” leaders” ?
    Retired as an LTC and a COS , but still hoping to reform the VA for my kids and my soldiers.

  41. Rheault.Kenneth    

    NICE REPLY TOVNA Ill most likely be 6 feet under when i recive a appointment to
    see a VA doc im Germany,

  42. George    

    The problem for me is not getting an appointment, it’s getting the Doctors to be on time to the appointment or keeping the appointment. My primary has cancelled 4 times on me this year, when I call they say go to the e.r and that’s like a six hour wait. My pain doc has cancelled once while I was already present for the appointment and called in 20 min late on the very next appointment. Currently I have been dealing with a kidney stone since September seen the doc in October had an appointment for December it’s all ready cancelled. So what do you do when you can get an appointment but can’t get anyone to keep it?????

  43. Richard M. Levine    

    Bob McDonald’s email is supposedly bob.mcdonald@va.gov. The reason I say supposedly is that he has not responded to any of my emails to this address.

    I am beginning to believe my theory that he is only a previously out-of-work executive and political appointee to take the heat off the massive failures at the VA and is not the top-gun corporate turn-around executive that would be needed to actually fix the broken VA. I had worked at a global consulting firm and they once had hired a turn-around top-gun for $10,000 a week to fix any problems in the IT department. Bob McDonald was apparently a failure at P&G and pushed out of his position for not turning around the profit loss and not spending enough time on the job. He apparently spent more time on his positions on boards of directors for other companies. This is another example of Obama surrounding himself with failures and people with the wrong experience. If you Google, you can find an article in which Bob’s private cell phone number appears. I have never heard from him picking up the phone. I did have a call back from someone in his office stating that they would look into my issue. They never called back to advise me of anything. He seems to be the same failure as the VA leaders before him.

    1. JW Huckfeldt    

      Mr. Levine,

      Secretary McDonald’s email is not the one you have posted. that’s why he hasn’t answered you.

      As a public relations practitioner, I can tell you the P&G is one of the most successful companies in America. Under Secretary McDonald’s charge, the company is far from what you describe and his leadership wasn’t questioned. When he retired, stock pricing was more than $80 a share. That’s impressive.

      You facts are wrong. I encourage you to study the successes he’s achieved since he started at P&G.

      You called him. So did I. Let me tell you and the rest of the Veteran community that Secretary McDonald did respond to my call. He used his sphere of influence to help me save my eyesight from gross negligence and malpractice performed by an Army doctor 17 years ago. You can say what you will about Secretary McDonald, it’s a free country and I’ll never begrudge anyone of their right to express an opinion, but I have solid evidence that he contacted me late in the evenings, sometimes after midnight and once at 4:48 a.m. Now I’m not sure what kind of leader he was at P&G, but I can tell you through all of this crap that’s been heaped on his shoulders, he took time from his day late at night or early in the morning to save me from legal blindness.

      Secretary McDonald is doing this because he wants to…not because he has to. He’s a self made millionaire who doesn’t need this headache. He chooses to go to work to help people like you and me. And it’s my privilege to respond to you because he made it possible for me to see.

    2. tammie k pitt    

      Thank you. I have been trying g to find an email address. If by some miracle I get a response i will let you know.

  44. Doug Dante    

    Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs BobMcDonald,
    You wrote:
    “Fixing access to VA care is important; we have a plan to do that and are dedicated to implementing it. That process will take time — but it must be done, and we will be successful. ”
    VA is critical to medicine and vets By Robert A. McDonald October 23, 2014
    The most critical thing you can do to fix access to VA is to bring to justice any criminals who have broken access to VA care for their own personal financial gain.
    Please help the VA IG act as an independent and objective watchdog.
    Please honor your duties to see that those at the VA appear to may have committed criminal acts, including defrauding vulnerable and sick elderly veterans, face justice for any crimes that they have committed.
    I urge you to do the right thing and seek justice, defending the sick and oppressed veterans who have been harmed by potentially criminal activities at the VA, to take up the cause of the fatherless children of veterans who have been denied care, and to argue on the side of their widowed spouses.
    I urge you to act with kindness towards veterans denied care, faithfulness to the law, and truthfulness with the families of the deceased, protecting all veterans, and acting in the interests of justice. Disabled vets and vulnerable surviving widows depend on you to protect them from crime.
    Until you do, sick veterans and their families must hope for justice, and persevere.
    See the original message below.
    Sincerely,
    a.k.a. Doug Dante
    PS: The original message below is also online at:
    “Action Opportunity: Call for Criminal Investigations at the Veteran’s Administration, Urge the VA-IG to Act as an Independent and Objective Watchdog, End “Blatant Deceit” at the VA in the reddit mractivism forum

  45. robert    

    I quit going to the va about 3yrs ago, and couldn’t be happier. I would have to drive 60 miles for an appointment, only to wait and hour or so to be seen and the appointment would only last about 10 min and was a different Dr every time. I would have to explain my situation every time. After 2 knee surgeries, I was still in alot of pain and having problems. My primary care physician sent me to pain management yet again, only this time instead of addressing the situation I was treated like a drug addict after being on the same pain medication for 6 years. The Dr kept saying he wasn’t going to give me morphine the rest of my life. I never asked about morphine, only asked the Dr to do his job and either send me to ortho or change my dosage of meds because the pain was horrible. Anyways the pain management Dr took me off my meds and didn’t send me to ortho and made remarks in my case file that I was trying to get prescribed controlled substances. It took a complaint and call to my congressman to get the remarks removed. Since then I have not gone to the va and never plan on returning to the va. I am an Iraq vet, 80% disabled, for ptsd, anxiety, depression, tinnitus, my knee, a nerve disorder and a few other non compensated issues. The va system is horrible.

  46. anthony provenzano    

    GOD BLESS THE VA IN NORTHPORT NEWYORK

  47. Danny    

    you really want to help a disabled veteran out secretary McDonald? How about giving us a raise comprable to what Congress is scheduled to get. From what I have read the newest 41 members are scheduled to get a $2,800. raise, while those of us that spent years of our lives serving our country are scheduled to get a raise of 1.7%. even as a 100% Disabled American veteran, my raise will come nowhere near what the members of Congress are going to receive. Oh did I forget to mention that most of them have never worn our uniform of the armed forces of the greatest country in the world!

    1. Danny    

      in all fairness and since I am trying to be honest when I blog, I will say there is a chance that Congress could deny themselves a pay raise. They have not had a raise in 5 years, but they make quite a bit more than any disabled veteran I know and I really don’t expect them to vote the Raise down.I hope I am wrong, I hope I’m just blowing steam, and if I am wrong I will come back and eat crow as the expression goes.

  48. Frank Giacobbi    

    “Bob” McDonald: “We will begin implementing this benefit on Nov. 5, as required by law.”
    My question to “Bob”: Where in this blog post is your forthright admission that VA failed to meet the deadline *imposed by law* to *implement* (not *begin implementing*) this benefit by Nov 5?

  49. richard stuber    

    I want to know when the doctor will not be worried about loosing his job if he issues a prescription for in my case Copd bronchitis and asma. My cough is so severe that the protocol has always been presidone anti biotic and codene with Tylenol to suppress coughing.
    I am told can only issue 4oz of codene cough syrup. Not exactly what I want to walk around with a bottle of cough syrup. Since I cannot get the proper health care I will go back to a private doctor for this problem. The doctors brought on the problem over prescribing hard drugs and when someone really needs a prescription once a year I can’t get it. Only the codene syrup. Do you think 4oz is going to clear my cough. Oh by the way I told him I cannot tolerate syrup. I throw it back up. Doesn’t matter this is what you get. Hey no problem I will find a doctor who can treat me in a professional manner and help me to extend my life. Come on Mr seceratary make these peo three job right now there scared of loosing there job. In the meantime I am dying away. My ribs back and left side kidney and throat are all paying the price

  50. Rheault.Kenneth    

    After reading all the complants above I wounder why VA can say thair inproveing ,looks like thair talking out bought side of thair mouths.its a real sham that old and new vets are being asked to belive this B:S:
    so often .records are closed and put in holding areas and when you call or ask for information thay say sorry your records are not avaiable some one closed them out. Ill have them brought up form holding area and get back with you shortlly the problem is thay forget to tell you when ,it s no wonder people that servied this grat country have lost all fath in VA and the U.S. Goverment Hope are new troops dont go through this B:S

  51. Johnny Deardorff    

    When is the Government going to re write the law to include the health care for Atomic Veterans who Cleaned up the Enewetak Atoll. in saying that all the Atomic veterans at the NTS are compensated for just saying they were there for this shot or that shot, with the superfund, Dam it’s time for us to be recognized too., we cleaned up in the words of the scientist and Doctors of the nuclear age with all the big degrees. they were Appalled and horrified at the way we are treated and the conditions that we had to work in with no protection, they even hinted at criminal. Now I am going to carry this fight to a Attorney that will go Federal Criminal charges on the Government because we are tired of wanting what we all deserve, it really pissed me off to find out we were a legal Glitch in the writing of the Atomic veterans compensation act. UN GLITCH THIS CRAP we are DYING AND NEED HELP NOW

  52. J R    

    Ethos before Ego”!!!

    What a load of ______……..Right Bob??? You did not read any of the comments did you Bob??? Want to know how I know your full of ______ Bob. Easy, your are now telling us Vets what a good ______ job you have done!!! See it’s that easy!!! I have more time sitting in a VA Hospital trying to get some help, than you have working at the VA….

    Old Door Gunner Vietnam 69/70

  53. Danny    

    GREAT NEWS! ! I saw on the news this morning that secretary McDonald and the VA are trying to discipline approximately 1000 employees with regard to the unlawful treatment of veterans!I sincerely applaud the intentions, and I hope that several of those are in the executive echelons. secretary McDonald, this kind of action shows that you are standing up for the veterans, I hope you follow through.not only at the upper echelon, but also throughout the entire ladder. employees from the bottom up have been involved in the mistreatment of my brothers and sisters, we realize that, and hope that justice will be served!

  54. JOF    

    Well thanks for a page of saying everything without saying anything.

    Instead of blowing smoke and creating more bureaucracy, why not work on streamlining process, cutting the fat, and getting rid of the thousands of useless office drones the VA employs that do little that actually helps?

    Why not focus on the VA’s number one problem: internal communications? It is a very sad thing when the clinics and the hospital in the same metropolitan area never seem to bother actually sharing information unless it happens to deal with money owed.

    The only thing getting older than having to explain the exact same situation to 12 different people three times each is sitting in a mostly empty waiting room for four hours so some Doc can send a PA who still has a mouthful of doughnut tell me they are short handed and will get to me when they can at the hospital. It is to the point I would rather go bankrupt dealing with civilian health care than deal with the VA.

    Our newest clinic in my town is amazing however. Too bad that once word gets out more it will be just as swamped and choked out by repetitive forms and no internal coms as the rest of the system.

    In short, less talk, more action. Weed out the dead wood with napalm ASAP and eliminate the entire bureaucracy and lame duck communications.

  55. Neva Cochran    

    Will the VA do away with the categories for eligibility?
    We were told we would have VA Health benefits when we joined service.

  56. tammie k pitt    

    THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU WHO HAVE SERVED!! I am not a veteran but a military brat raised by a military brat and so on. My whole family for generations were all military from WWI through Iraq, I have had family in every war. I have always had the utmost respect for our military and I still do, for our soldiers and their families. NOT THE VA!! My stepfather (my dad) who served in Vietnam recently under went a surgery that left him paralyzed from the waist down. I am APALLED that the VA will do nothing to help him. No medical support, nothing. At 66 he was working 2 jobs when he went in for surgery. If he had been able to get the PT he needed there was a chance he would regain use of his legs. However with no help him and my mom could not pay the $160 a week for PT. Now the hopes of anything are pretty much gone. All of his care has fallen on my 64 yo mother. My children and I do all we can to help but I work. My mom has to get him out of bed to his wheelchair then to his toilet chair, clean him after, then to his shower chair, bathe him then back to wheel chair back into bed, then dress him and get him back into wheel chair, on days when depression doesnt keep him in bed. And several days a week he has Dr appts. Thats a whole other issue since they do not have a handicap van and cant afford one. They pay for all his Dr’s, because the VA wont see him. He’s not active duty, was not receiving benefits at the time of the injury, didn’t get the surgery at a VA hospital, was not on the ground in Nam (submarine) and he had an income. Ohh I’m sorry, after lots of questions and digging, the VA did finally send my mom a 100 page packet to fill out to get someone to come in and help with domestic stuff. Maybe some time in the next 6 months she will have time to finish filling it out. Then wait the 9 months to get it processed before she gets any help. THATS IT!?! Thats how you treat someone who served his country and did his part??

  57. Bennett    

    I’m too young (34) to have heard so many stories about the VA reorganizing and offering exciting new programs. Still, I’m hopeful and I appreciate Mr. McDonald’s efforts on our behalf, but I most want to know if his plans to hire mental health professionals will include Licensed Professional Counselors or non-APA Psychologists. The VA keeps saying they don’t have enough mental health professionals but then they refuse to hire from the hundreds of thousands of professionals that blanket our country. Why can’t the mental health professionals who serve Veteran’s families also serve Veterans?

  58. Maki    

    Frustration for me; and more likely than not, the majority of the Veterans seeking assistance starts at the communications barrier aka: stone walling caused by the terrible VA phone system wherein it takes 30 minutes to an hour to speak to someone regarding your claim, your appeal or to gather general information.

    I challenge the Secretary and anyone on his staff to call into the dreaded “1000” VA 800 number. (1-800-827-1000).

    Debt Mngt Center at 1-800-827-0648.

    The Pension 1-877-294-6380 number during normal business hours will just give you a recording indicating that they have to many calls and that you should call back after normal hours to schedule a call back appointment.

    I argue that these assistance lines be manned longer hours and the phone actually be answered.

  59. bill    

    Honorable McDonald:

    Please google “MHS VHA merger” as you continue to consider reorganization. The search will take you to my senior service college presentation about merging the Veterans Health Administration with the Military Healthcare System. Not sure if my points are still valid but it does provide food for thought.

    Respectfully submitted.

  60. Edward carroll    

    I’ve been trying to talk to someone about my disability benefits.I applied for my benefits in 2004 and the doctors found me a 100 percent disabled i started receiving my benefits until September of 2008 in which they told me that i no longer quality for my benefits because of copd does not qualify me which put me and my family in hardship were l lost our home and we became homeless with our four children that later on cost me marriage and now that my late wife has passed away am now raising our four children on my own.is this what I get in return for my 24 years in the army now am on oxygen 24 hours a day. I wish that i can find someone that can help me and my children.

    1. Jerry Alexander    

      It hard i get a straight answer from the VA.CBS news reported last night 11 Nov. that 33 veterans commit suicide per day, makes one wondering how commit suicide because of the VA.. How veterans are homeless because of big government VA.
      And COPD is listed as a disability, 6604 Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: EV-1 less than 40 percent of predicted value, or; the ratio of Forced Expiratory Volume in one second to Forced Vital Capacity (FEV-1/FVC) less than 40 percent, or; Diffusion Capacity of the Lung for Carbon Monoxide by the Single Breath Method (DLCO (SB)) less than 40-percent predicted, or; maximum exercise capacity less than 15 ml/kg/min oxygen consumption (with cardiac or respiratory limitation), or; cor pulmonale (right heart failure), or; right ventricular hypertrophy, or; pulmonary hypertension (shown by Echo or cardiac catheterization), or; episode(s) of acute respiratory failure, or; requires outpatient oxygen therapy. 100
      FEV-1 of 40- to 55-percent predicted, or; FEV-1/FVC of 40 to 55 percent, or; DLCO (SB) of 40- to 55-percent predicted, or; maximum oxygen consumption of 15 to 20 ml/kg/min (with cardiorespiratory limit) 60
      FEV-1 of 56- to 70-percent predicted, or; FEV-1/FVC of 56 to 70 percent, or; DLCO (SB) 56- to 65-percent predicted 30
      FEV-1 of 71- to 80-percent predicted, or; FEV-1/FVC of 71 to 80 percent, or; DLCO (SB) 66- to 80-percent predicted 10

      Title 38: Pensions, Bonuses, and Veterans’ Relief

      PART 4—SCHEDULE FOR RATING DISABILITIES you ind this on the VA website.

      Extra employees and overtime and VA can’t get caught up, and about every word on the VA web page, just makes them sound good. Really wonder if Robert McDonald can really fix the VA. Going to take a act God to get the problem employees fire.

      1. Jerry Alexander    

        Every day, 22 veterans commit suicide — more than 8,000 per year. Not 33

  61. Allen Hergott    

    Sir;
    I have long been trying to get my disability to support my needs.
    I picked up, a neurological disorder that remain troublesome since Gulf War 1991. To prevent the Service Connection relationship, the VA continues to diagnosis as individual illnesses instead of Gulf War Syndrome. Despite this I continue to suffer from symptoms like, dizziness, loss of muscle control, memory and attention problems, chronic fatigue, headaches, and muscle and joint pain. Instead they rated these as not service connected even though all these issues beginning when I was only 38 years old, and hospitalized for the LBBB just 5 months after returning from SWA.
    My condition continues to deteriorate as time goes on with little or no adjustments. VA, like Agent Orange association with Vietnam, continues to deign Gulf War Veterans neurological disorders associated with anti- nerve agent pills called pyridostigmine bromide, or PB, pesticides, oil field contaminates exposure to Chemical Munitions destruction.
    The mandatory use of anti- nerve agent pills called pyridostigmine bromide, or PB that has AChEis are found in pesticides used to protect us against insects in the battlefield, and are also in these anti- nerve agent pills.
    All I ever wanted to be a part of helping this Great Nation continue on it’s path to Greatness. To do my part at all cost; to be a part of the solution not a part of the problem.
    I truly wish now that this Great Nation would live up to it’s promises to us when we need it.

  62. Mark Rogers    

    Sec. McDonald,
    I don’t feel any real progress will be made until the claims process is overhauled. In my own case, I have had to hire an attorney to handle my appeal. My injuries were diagnosed as service connected and treated by the VHS. The VBA , on the other hand tells me that my injuries do not exist but if they do, they are not service connected. Apparently in their minds, I picked up PTSD from a toilet seat somewhere in the States, not from serving in a combat zone. It is clear to everyone, except those that provide VA oversight, that the VA has shifted the claims backlog to the appeals backlog. The VBA’s claim of a 90% accuracy rating is an outright lie when compared to the claims that get successfully appealed, remanded or reconsidered. When an agency is allowed to lie to Congress, I don’t expect to get fair and impartial consideration of my claim. When the VA’s policy of “lie, delay and deny until they die” changes, maybe we will see veteran’s get what was promised. The VA must stop being an adversary to veterans and start acting like advocates.

  63. Chris B.    

    Sec. McDonald is helping a lot of Vets. I would suggest Hadit.com to all veterans with issues. The site is Vet to Vet help on anything you can think of.

  64. CPT Jeffrey R Stephens, RN ASN, USAR    

    Mr McDonald (Sir),

    I am hopeful that you actually do stick to your guns here. You indicated that you wanted to hire healthcare individuals and bring accountability and integrity back to the VA! Well, I can tell you one of the best ways to do that is to actually bring Vets in to the equation! Vets 99% of the time have integrity and character in spades! And, when it comes to caring for other Vets – WE – DO NOT LEAVE FELLOW VETS BEHIND! I am an experience and trained Registered Nurse and have been trying for more than 18 months to get hired by the VA! The VA however has done EVERYTHING they can to avoid hiring me and from what I am learning countless other Vets trained to be healthcare providers and will do everything they can to hire Civilians over Vets – I have seen it continuing for 18 months now and it in all honesty sickens me! When I have pressed the VA healthcare recruiters about this they inform me that do not have to hire Vets or even disabled Vets due to an exemption found in ‘Title 38’. I have seen it and in addition when asked to produce documentation explain how all of the hundreds of Civilian Healthcare providers are better qualified to work with other Vets – the VA has REFUSED to answer this question! This is because they know they cannot justify it!

    This is where you need to show your support of Vets!

    V/r

    CPT Jeffrey R Stephens, RN ASN, USAR

    1. Jerry Alexander    

      Disqualification of 30 Percent or More Disabled Veterans
      The following special provisions apply to disabled veterans with a compensable service-connected disability of 30 percent or more:
      • If an agency proposes to pass over a disabled veteran on a certificate to select a person who is not a preference eligible, or to disqualify a disabled veteran based on the physical requirements of the position, it must at the same time notify both the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the disabled veteran of the reasons for the determination and of the veteran’s right to respond to OPM within 15 days of the date of the notification.
      • The agency must provide evidence to OPM that the notice was timely sent to the disabled veteran’s last known address.
      • OPM must make a determination on the disabled veteran’s physical ability to perform the duties of the position, taking into account any additional information provided by the veteran.
      • OPM will notify the agency and the disabled veteran of its decision, with which the agency must comply. If OPM agrees that the veteran cannot fulfill the physical requirements of the position, the agency may select another person from the certificate of eligibles. If OPM finds the veteran able to perform the job, the agency may not pass over the veteran.
      • OPM is prohibited by law from delegating this function to any agency.
      5 U.S.C. 3312, 3318

  65. Scott Rabjohn    

    Is Bob aware that the Phoenix VA is still backlogged on claims? After many years of struggling to receive my disability rating I was never contacted to see if I had benefits for my over 30% rating and was told to file another claim. I filed my dependent claim in April of 2013 and it is still not complete. It started to make some progress in September of this year but was pushed back a step for further review. I am happy that a mistake was caught but no progress has been made since. The ebenefits timeline showed that it should have been completed by Nov 7 but it has not and only shows past due. The “estimated” and I know that won’t even be close to the real completion time shows my claim to be fully completed by Dec 01, 2014. I called the 800-827-1000 and the people that answer are very courteous and in October requested an update from the Phoenix office but they have not received a reply either. I have the American Legion as my representative and when I call them they tell me sorry that’s the way it is and there’s nothing we can do. I tried calling Senator McCains office and they tell me to mail in a letter and they will look into it. The last time I did that for my initial claim that took 5 years they sent me a letter saying it my claim was in progress, no help there. I contacted a few of the local news stations in Phoenix and received either no reply or that’s disappointing and we have received similar complaints since may and will add you on the list, again no help. Seriously does it really take 2 years to add 3 names and social security numbers to my file??? Apparently all of the organizations that are suppose to help cannot. They can help you file a claim but as far as getting anything done they are helpless. How sad is it when the VA offices don’t even respond to each other and the veterans they serve….

    1. Scott Rabjohn    

      Correction * I was never contacted to see if I had dependents for my award over 30%

  66. James Hilliard    

    well my claims were in the decision phase. Now pushed back to gathering of evedeince… Until. 2/27/15 thru 7/7/2015. No fixing the va. So many problems,I don’t want to begin with my problems… Just fix this so we can get on with our lives…

  67. bobby gregory    

    I hope he can get it done because have been waiting over 8 months to see my doctor which is a VA doctor. They say it because they have to many people to see. # months ago broke my ankle and had to have it pinned back together and had to go to a private doctor to get it done.

  68. bobby gregory    

    I have been waiting on my appeal for over 7 years now. If he can fix some problems why can they also get with the appeal process because waiting this long makes it seem that they don’t care about what we did for them. It just seems to take longer if you so no to anything that happens with the VA

  69. Michael Novak    

    I have been trying to get in the system for over 5yrs and I find out I make too much money to even get any type of service.

  70. Steve Burton    

    Thank you for taking on such a challenging job and for your service to our country. I have read, listened, and viewed many of your speeches since your appointment and I am encouraged but it is very difficult to be patient when the VA has done so many things wrong and walked away froom their responsibilitis time after time. We veterans need a better conduit to those who can help us. We need a new approach to advocacy. We need an independent (from VSOs) system with global reach as we have American military veterans living all over the world. Veterans should be asked for the specifications for the replacement systems of failing technology in existence now like My Healthevet Secure Messaging.

  71. SGM Leg    

    The first thing the VA needs to do is, get RID OF THE UNION!!! It should be illegal for any government employee to belong to a union. That will take care of 99% of the problems in the VA. Most of the employees I have seen at the VA don’t really care about their jobs, as they have “job security” with their union.
    Unions had they reason’s years ago, like giving us fair working hours, etc, but they need to be done away with now!
    May God Bless America and remember to thank a vet 🙂

  72. Jeremy    

    I understand that the VA system is under immense restructure, However; the program for Comp claims is extremely broken. If you file a claim under the quick start program, it is common to see the rating within 90 days. This program allows your claim to be started, C&P exams scheduled and payments are still awarded before 90 days on average. The BDD process allows a service member to file his/her claim 180 days prior to EAS. in most cases the C&P exams are completed prior to EAS and claim if ready for processing upon EAS. Most of these claims are submitted to the VA 90 days prior to the EAS.

    The BDD process is held at Salt Lake City and Winston-Salem. Why does it take on average 200 days from your EAS to complete a rating when service members can just wait until the last minute to qualify for the Quick Start and have a rating done within 90 days of EAS. The system is broken. If all information in received months prior to the EAS, the VA should have zero problems in applying a rating within 30 days of your EAS.

    1. Jerry Alexander    

      I started he BDD process in March, 2014. Being told 5 months for Preparation for decision at Winston-Salem. The earliest is 1 Dec to March 20, 2015. Estimated Claim Completion Date: 01/07/2015 to 05/19/2015. So looking at 7 to 14 months total. Have to decide which is more important paying bills or doctors copay. Can’t do both, S1 joint dysfunction and lumbar spine shot hard to get employment. Even had jobs line up, but now can’t hire me because of health issues.

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