21 reasons why VA is heading in the right direction for 2015


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2014 was a roller coaster year for VA. The early months of 2014, saw VA chugging upward hacking away at the claims backlog, improving access for mental health care, home loans and providing record benefits to Veterans and their family members.  In March, the Department celebrated 25 years as a cabinet-level agency.

But in May, the Phoenix scandal overshadowed all of those accomplishments. Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson took the helm and immediately ordered for VA to come clean, providing full disclosure to the public about any and all discrepancies it uncovered.

Secretary Bob McDonald continued that level of transparency and began a push to regain the trust of Veterans – visiting with Veterans from coast-to-coast – listening to their needs, their complaints and their ideas for improvement. He orders accountability and immediate action and, through our MyVA initiative, is helping VA work to ensure Veterans are in control of how, when and where they want to be served.

The VA’s biggest success of 2014 may arguably be the wakeup call that is leading the much needed change well into the new year; however, we cannot overlook what was accomplished by the vast majority of employees and volunteers that embody VA’s I CARE core values and their sense of duty to our nation’s Veterans.  Their top accomplishments follow:

 

1. I CARE

Sec. Bob McDonald asked all VA employees and volunteers to recommit themselves to the principles of I CARE. These values — Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence — define our culture and strengthen our dedication to those we serve. They provide a baseline for the standards of behavior expected of all VA employees.

2. Medical appointments on track

Bob McDonald's first visit as VA Secretary was  to the Phoenix VAMC where he met with veterans and employees like Medical Support Assistant Michael Logie. He also visited the Las Vegas VAMC during the trip.

Bob McDonald’s first visit as VA Secretary was to the Phoenix VAMC where he met with veterans and employees like Medical Support Assistant Michael Logie. He also visited the Las Vegas VAMC during the trip.

Nationally, VA has completed 24 million appointments between June 1, 2014 and Oct. 31, 2014, which is a 1.4 million increase over the same time period in 2013.

3. Private-sector care for Veterans

VA made nearly 1.2 million authorizations for Veterans to receive care in the private sector from June 1, 2014 through Oct. 31, 2014, nearly doubling (48 percent increase) the authorizations made during the same period in 2013.

4. Building for the future

Sec. Bob McDonald visits Las Vegas VAMC

VA Secretary Bob McDonald goes over expansion plans for the Las Vegas VA Medical Center during his first trip as VA Secretary.

In 2014, VA activated 93 buildings, which resulted in 1,420,884 additional square feet for clinical, mental health, long-term care facilities, and administrative space.

5. Excellence in Service

Sec. Bob McDonald visits the pharmacy in the Charlotte Community Based Outpatient Clinic.

Sec. Bob McDonald visits the pharmacy in the Charlotte Community Based Outpatient Clinic.

For the fourth consecutive year, VA’s Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy received the highest customer satisfaction score among the nation’s public and private mail-order pharmacies, according to a J.D. Power study.

6.  GI Bill turned 70, continues to change lives

VA celebrated the 70th anniversary of the GI Bill of Rights in 2014. In FY 2014, VA provided more than $10.8 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to Servicemembers, Veterans, and their families to enhance their economic opportunities. Since the inception of the program in 2009, more than $47 billion has been paid to more than 1.3 million Post-9/11 GI Bill participants (as of Dec. 1, 2014).

In FY14, as part of the GI Bill of Rights, VA guaranteed 440,000 home loans totaling $100 billion, while also assisting 80,000 Veterans in avoiding foreclosure, saving taxpayers over $2.7 billion. VBA has maintained the lowest foreclosure rate for 25 consecutive quarters when compared to all other types of home loans.

7. More benefits for families and survivors

VA expanded the eligibility criteria for the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship to include the surviving spouses of Servicemembers who died in the line of duty after Sept. 10, 2001. VA began accepting applications by mail for the Fry Scholarship under the newly expanded eligibility criteria on Nov. 3, 2014.

8. VA Cemeteries tops in customer satisfaction

In 2014, Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery was listed as one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world in an article appearing in both Smithsonian Magazine and Travel and Leisure.

In 2014, Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery was listed as one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world in an article appearing in both Smithsonian Magazine and Travel and Leisure.

For the fifth consecutive time, VA’s National Cemetery Administration topped the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s (ACSI) independent survey of customer satisfaction. NCA achieved a customer satisfaction index of 96, the highest ACSI score in either the private or public sector in the history of the survey.

9. VA employees continue to work on the claims backlog

In FY 2014, VA decided a record-breaking 1,320,870 disability compensation and pension (rating) claims for Veterans and Survivors – the highest in VA history.

Veterans waited, on average, 119 fewer days to receive a decision on their claims compared to the previous year. The claims backlog (any claim older than 125 days) has also been reduced from the peak of 611,000 in March 2013 to 239,000 as of Nov. 30, 2014 – a 61 percent reduction and lowest number of backlogged claims in four years.

10. Fully Developed Claims exceeding goals

VA continues to exceed goals with regard to Fully Developed Claims. In FY 2014, 39 percent of claims received were submitted as Fully Developed Claims, up from three percent at initiative start in 2012.

11. More Veterans and families sign up for eBenefits

Winterhaven volunteer Sharon Friel (right) helps a Veteran sign up for eBenefits during the stand down at the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center.

Winterhaven volunteer Sharon Friel (right) helps a Veteran sign up for eBenefits during the stand down at the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center.

By the end of FY2014, VA had registered 4.2 million Servicemembers, Veterans, and family members in eBenefits. In addition, approximately 2,000 VSO representatives have credentials for accessing eBenefits through VBA’s new Stakeholder Enterprise Portal, which enables them to file online compensation claims on behalf of Veterans.

12. VA goes digital

Under VA’s technology initiatives, one major achievement has been its transition from an outmoded paper-intensive process to a fully electronic processing system, the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS).

Previously VA processed 5,000 tons of paper per year; now it is processing 93 percent of the disability claims inventory electronically. VA has converted over 1 billion documents to digital images that are being maintained in Veterans’ electronic claim folders. In FY 2014, 1.4 million rating decisions and 820,000 claims were completed using VBMS.

13. VA keeps reducing the number of homeless Veterans

VA, together with federal, state, and local partners, reduced the estimated number of homeless Veterans by 33 percent as noted in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) 2014 Point-in-Time (PIT) Estimate of Homelessness.

In FY 2014 alone, VA provided services to more than 260,000 homeless or at-risk Veterans in VHA’s homeless programs. Not all Veterans required an intensive homeless program intervention, but for those that did, nearly 71,500 Veterans were either placed in permanent housing or prevented from becoming homeless.

14. VA hires more mental healthcare professionals

a mental health professional speaks with a Veteran

VA hired 782 psychologists and psychiatrists in 2014 as well as 257 other mental health providers, such as social workers, nurses and licensed professional counselors, and 45 mental health administrative support employees. These professionals are filling new positions and existing vacancies to meet the growing requirements for mental health services.

15. Veterans Crisis Line is expanded to help more Veterans

In response to the President’s Executive Order, VA expanded the capacity of the Veterans Crisis Line by 50 percent, and enhanced its partnerships with community mental health providers.

In FY 2014, the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL) answered 374,050 phone calls, assisted 64,593 people through chat services and 13,463 people through text services. VCL responders assisted in sending emergency services (rescue) to 9,719 Veterans. Call volume answered by VCL in 2014 increased by 30 percent. Chat contacts increased by 18 percent, and Text contacts increased by 19 percent.

16. VA expands care for Veterans with military sexual trauma


Under authority from VACAA, VA expanded eligibility for Veterans in need of mental health care due to military sexual trauma (MST) that occurred during their military service. The expansion primarily pertains to Reservists and National Guard members participating in weekend drill, gives the authority to offer Veterans the appropriate care and services needed to treat conditions resulting from MST that occurred during a period of inactive duty training.

17. More healthcare options for women Veterans

Women healthcare

VA has enhanced provision of care to women Veterans by focusing on the goal of developing Designated Women’s Health Providers (DWHP) at every site where women access VA. VA has trained over 2,000 providers in women’s health and is in the process of training additional providers to ensure that every woman Veteran has the opportunity to receive her primary care from a DWHP.

VA now operates a Women Veterans Call Center (WVCC), created to contact women Veterans and let them know about the services they may be eligible for. From April 2013 to April 2014 the WVCC received over 9,600 incoming calls and made over 93,000 outbound calls.

18. VA to reorganize and improve

Secretary Bob McDonald outlines the "Road to Veterans Day"

Secretary Bob McDonald outlines the “Road to Veterans Day”

VA is working to reorganize the department for success, guided by ideas and initiatives from Veterans, employees, and all of our stakeholders. This reorganization is a part of the MyVA initiative and is designed to provide Veterans with a seamless, integrated, and responsive customer service experience.

The Department developed the Blue Print for Excellence– a detailed vision of how VA will evolve as a model national health care provider delivering both excellent health care and an excellent experience of care to all Veterans served.

19.  Enhancing accountability

whistleblower

In 2014, VA established the Office of Accountability Review to ensure leadership accountability for improprieties related to patient scheduling and access to care, whistleblower retaliation, and related matters that impact public trust in VA.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) certified VA under their Whistleblower Protection Certification Program after VA worked to achieve compliance and protect employees who identify or report problems from unlawful retaliation. VA also worked closely with OSC to successfully resolve whistleblower retaliation complaints filed by three individuals from the VA Phoenix Health Care System.

In 2014, VA also began posting regular data updates that show progress in efforts to accelerate access to quality health care for Veterans who have been waiting for appointments. This data includes both pending and completed appointments at the facility level.

20. VA looks to recruit the best and brightest in the medical field

VA faces a competitive market to recruit and retain highly skilled health care providers, particularly mental health specialists, given the growing demand for these jobs in the private sector. Complex hiring processes for clinicians, to include requirements for boarding, credentialing, privileging, physicals, security/backgrounds, add to the department’s challenge. We are working to close the pay gap between VA and private sector clinicians to make VA an employer of choice.

21. VA listening to Veterans and VA employees

Sec. Robert McDonald addresses Veterans and VA employees at the Phoenix VAMC

Sec. Robert McDonald addresses Veterans and VA employees at the Phoenix VAMC

In the aftermath of Phoenix, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald instructed all VA facilities to hold town hall meetings to engage Veterans as well as the VA employees that serve them. As a result of that first round of meetings coast-to-coast, Secretary McDonald mandated quarterly town hall meetings as a way to continue to improve communications with Veterans. These quarterly town-hall events are an important step toward improving the delivery of benefits and services and rebuilding trust among all those VA serves.

Looking forward to 2015

While we recognize these milestones, we continue to tackle the challenges of the department.  We also embrace the opportunities for transformation that they bring.

To achieve lasting success for the department, VA must develop a strategy for meeting an increased demand for services and benefits, and for meeting the needs of a changing Veteran population. This includes preparing for the increasing numbers of women Veterans coming to VA for care; looking at the unique needs of post-9/11 Veterans; and using innovative approaches to reach every Veteran who needs services.

Sec. Bob McDonald wrote in the Baltimore Sun in October “Veterans need VA, and many more Americans benefit from VA.”  By focusing on three fundamental priorities in 2015 – rebuilding trust, improving service by putting the Veteran first, and setting the course for longer-term excellence and reform – VA’s employees can better serve our Veterans and the American people.

Author

Reynaldo Leal

- Reynaldo Leal recently joined the VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System as the public affairs officer. He is a proud Marine Corps Veteran who deployed to the Al Anbar Province with 3rd Battalion 5th Marine Regiment in 2004 and 2006. He also took part in some of the heaviest fighting during Operation Phantom Fury in 2004. Before coming to Continental South District he worked on the VA's Digital Media Engagement team and was the State Public Affairs Specialist for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is glad to be back home in his native South Texas, and looks forward to working for his fellow Veterans. He also looks forward to introducing his two sons to all the great fishing and outdoor opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley.

Comments

  1. patrick jahnke    

    (Stuff) GETTING DEEPER!!!!¡!! Heath care still hit rock bottom, mental heath told me if I can’t stop my pain I CAN NOT BE SEEN NO MORE!!!!!!! Bob does does read these blobs , Bob does not CARE!!!!!!!

  2. Don    

    The VA needs to investigate WHY the Dept. of Veterans Affair give veterans the run around until we die or give up!!!

  3. Leonard Potter    

    VA nightmare

    I beg to differ. Here at the Phoenix VA , now that all the publicity has died down, it’s business as usual. Long waits [6 weeks for a neurological consult) and am still awaiting a month later after that (the appointment was finally scheduled and kept}for the MRI that I was referred for.

    On top of this the parking is a nightmare. What’s this with “valet parking”, leaving your keys with a total stranger, not knowing if you’ll ever see your car again.

    Its a fact that 1500-1800 veterans die EACH DAY. I can see some of these deaths are caused by delays in delayed pretreatment and suicides, due to neglect on part of the VMAC.

    I’m totally stressed out just driving around and around looking for a parking place, while tempers flair, for a parking place by 2 people at the same time, and then when your fortunate to find one, hope that you can make it to your appointment on time, only to find that your “clinic” has moved to a different part of the complex recently and your not notified, while struggling with a walking cane to get to that other part of the complex, only to be treated by an indifferent staff.

    I use to work at this same facility 41 years ago, but quit after 7 1/2 years, due to the apathetic attitude by the staff that was starting to rub off on me. I see some things never change.

    I actually look forward to dying, rather than fight the “system”. Am hoping it will be a painless death, just so I don’t have to deal with a system, that I see hasn’t been fixed YET and never will now that the issues have been erased from the public’s memory.

    All the “positive” PR doesn’t erase the simple fact that the system remains broken.

    On top of all this trying to air my grievances only to try to submit this with CAPTCHA codes that i can’t “read” and after numerous attempts, wonder if anyone out there even gives a dawn.

    After 6 attempts cannot enter the “correct” CAPTCHA code. Just proves to me, no one gives a damn. Here goes another attempt.

    1. Sonequa    

      Well if you use the valet service maybe you wouldn’t have to worry about driving around looking for a place to park and being late for your appt. With any “valet” service you give your keys to a stranger so why do you expect to know the “valet” personnel at the VA?
      Also, as with anything you have a CHOICE to receive care or to not receive care at the VA. You can always CHOOSE to go to someone in the private sector of your CHOICE since they provide such better care.

      One last thing, the change isn’t going to happen overnight. It takes time. The least you could do is give it a few years and then if things haven’t changed then make your rant. but geez give the changes a chance to work.

      Btw, thanks for your service…

    2. Sheryl C. Stratton VAMC    

      Dear Leonard, I am woking in a different part of the country at a VA with high standards that we as employees strive hard to do the right thing and to take care of our veterans to the best of our ability. I read most of your post & I am appalled with your treatment at the Phoenix VA. Please, if you can, move to NYS. We care and we will take good care of you here. Another suggestion is to write to the White house on the White House website and express your concerns there. Action will be taken. I guarantee this. Take care of yourself. Anger is not going to help unless you use the fire to bring about good positive change!

  4. Shelly Mahan    

    I have over 20 years experience of experience as a Certified Nursing Assistant, BA in Psychology (substance abuse concentration 3.95 GPA), and my Professional Substance Abuse Internist (APIT) Certification from Indiana and cannot find employment with the VA in Indianapolis. I am in the OPM. gov program as well. I want a career with the VA because I’m from family full of Veterans and my son is a U.S. Marine. I want to work with our American Veterans: HELP!
    Thank You,
    Shelly R. Mahan

    1. Eric    

      God bless you Shelly… and I’m agnostic… Semper Fi and good luch with the job process, the VA needs your mentality… though I fear for your future as I’ve seen good people turn bad quick after getting jobs in the VA… it’s a command problem that is systemic, but hopefully many Shellys will help turn things around.

  5. Marvin Young    

    There was some talk that a new VA hospital is going to be build in Fresno, Ca
    Is this true ?

    The old VA hospital in Fresno, Ca cannot grow any more because lack of space in the area, there is also a lack of parking space.

  6. alberto robles    

    Finally we have someone in charge who does care for us in this troubled system. A system in much needed overhauling. !!!!

  7. Michael Gordon    

    I believe that the VA is completing claims at such a high speed because they are rushing through them and just denying the Veterans the benefits that they deserve, Since 1999 I have been trying to get the benefits that I deserve and even after I have all the proof needed and documentation from several doctors, I am still denied!!!! I was told over the phone that I was denied any Gulf War illnesses because I am not a GULF WAR VETERAN………… really………. I was in the Persian Gulf War. After a couple of days, I received an e-mail , which I saved, letting me know that they have added me as a Gulf War Veteran. It is funny I was deleted as a Gulf War Veteran since all my medical records and my DD214 states I am . I am sick of these games and at this point, my wife is going to the news, paper and as high as we can go . This is how I feel about the claims. As for the health care…….. I was having a hard time breathing so instead of me driving to white river VT, which is where my primary is, I decided to call the Va in Keene, NH. When I called and asked to be seen, I was told that there were no Doctors there to treat me. I was having such a hard time breathing, I went to the local hospital where I was diagnosed with walking Pnemonia. I had to pay for my presciptions out of pocket and I received bills from the local hospital that the Va is refusing to pay for. This is what I think about the heath care. I could go on and on but I think you all get the point !!!!!!! Hopefully when my wife gets all the documents together and calls the news, paper etc. I will finally get some where !!!! I am a really pissed of Vet. !!!!!!!!

  8. Michael Gordon    

    When I went to the VA doctor in Keene, NH with my wife, the doctor told my wife that the VA can’t afford to pay her for Aid and Attendance that she needs to send me to an adult day care. I am in my fourties and that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Who is the Dr. to determine what the VA can and can not afford. Even after my primary Dr. sent in the Aid and Attendance form stating I need the care, I was still denied. I have just requested a DRO and hopefully they will be able to help me. I have faxed paperwork to Manchester, NH for it to get lost or uploaded BLANK into the system. The VA had put some other Veterans paperwork in my file . They have sent confidential info of mine to the wrong address to the point where they had to give me access to a free credit report for a year because they were concerned about identity theft as well as I was. I had mailed 3 authorization forms and faxed three ( I have confirmation that it was received) for them to FINALLY put it in the system This whole process took six months. I have a very sour taste in my mouth about the whole way claims and personal information is handled. I believe that the VA basically keeps denying claims and losing paperwork so that the Veteran will give up. I am only talking about my experience with the VA in Manchester, NH. Whom ever that they have working on claims over there, has no idea what they are doing especially when I have all the supporting documents that are needed. When I lived in Mass and I was dealing with the VA in Boston, MA I had no complaints at all. Boston never lost paperwork etc

    1. Judith Murphy Baker    

      I know your frustration. I have had a claim with the VA since May 2011. I have sent in every single thing that was requested at my hearing 2 years ago Dec. 19, 2013. I have called the VA so many times and no one can tell me where my claim is. I got a call last week, Jan.7th, 2015 that I could have a BVA hearing the last week of Jan. And that I’d be called the next day re: the day and time. I was SO encouraged, things were moving on. Well not so as the next day I was told that the girl that called me was new and it wasn’t true. I engaged the Baltimore DAV as my rep. Forget that!!! The Baltimore DAV is useless, they don’t answer their phones and you can’t leave a message. Try to call them, you’ll see—so many negative postings re: the Balt. DAV. It’s a shame as there are so many good offices of the DAV. We’ll be dead before it’s settled. That’s what they hope anyway.

  9. Don    

    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 claims that AO had nothing to do with his early death!!!

  10. Leonard Potter    

    I don’t see the point in reading through all this propaganda to try and appease me the disabled veteran.

    I feel “blessed” for the 15 minutes I see my doctor ONCE a year. Hardly any of my valid concerns are addressed.

    I certainly have no fear of dying. I will hasten my death when I can’t tolerate the pain and/or lose my independence. I’m sure this missive will fall on deaf ears, if even anyone reads it.

    1. Kim Jones    

      Mr. Potter, Please, Please follow up with the VA at 1-800-273-8255. While I do not know where you are located, I am sure there is someone at your facility that will help. If you are not satisfied with your current provider request a new one. It is your right to get treatment. The last thing your or your family need is for you to give up the fight. The only way to make a change is to stand strong and demand the care you deserve. I wish I could do more, praying for you.

      1. Jerry Alexander    

        Kim Jones, maybe the VA goal is to have more veterans comment suicide as they don’t act like they care about veterans. 10 Months since I file and about to start missing payments on all my bills. Calhoun County Veteran’s Affairs director Scott Losey is accused of asking for money and gifts from clients after filing paperwork so they could receive benefits. Losey denied any wrongdoing, saying the emails were either taken out of context or were jokes. He denied taking drugs, money or cuts from veterans’ benefits. He acknowledged accepting gift cards, but said he did not ask for them, despite what the emails say.So is this the way the VA does business, get kickbacks for helping veterans? And don’t me to get help from VA for my finances, since the VA is the one causing me financial problems. If the VA gets rating like President Barack Obama they be lower. Extra 40 million to work on claims for 2015 budget.

        1. Danny    

          I knew a VSO in MN that got arrested for that very reason. He got away with it for a while but got caught in the end.

      2. Eric    

        Kim Jones – please get even half a clue… “If you are not satisfied with your current provider request a new one.” So they can pawn me off on the next underqualified idiot pretending to be a doctor?? “It is your right to get treatment.” Then my rights have been being violated for going on 9 years now… I was a medical discharge and can’t even get my doctor to let me finish a sentence.. or my previous doctor… or the one before that… or the one before that… see a pattern yet? “The only way to make a change is to stand strong and demand the care you deserve” There is alot I’d like to say to this but I’m just going to say that I’m pretty sure all of the guys on this list have stood strong already, and probably do a pretty good job of demanding the care they deserve (though they shouldn’t have to as the VA is contractually obligated to provide us with adequate healthcare); except there is a police officer at every VA facility I’ve been to, so it’s kinda hard to demand too forcefully, and the VA is a corrupt, corrupt, corrupt organization (just ask any whistleblowing employee) who will likely insert a few “mishaps” into the experience of any vet who raises too much of a stink… WRITE YOUR CONGRESSMAN people… they need to hear the thunder that us military men know how to bring.

        1. Jerry Alexander    

          I did write my congressman, now see how long it takes for him to get a reply. SSDI has done more in 4 months than VA. Have to do one test for breathing, same medical records that the VA get and the doctors have already review them. VA has had my medical records since March 2014. So the pre-discharge statement is false.
          This from VA website, they need to change and put the truth on website, because nothing they say is true. going to take almost 7 months to put a rating in my disability? So 60 days is a false statement.
          It is to your advantage to submit your disability compensation claim prior to separation, retirement, or release from active duty or demobilization. Processing times tend to be much shorter for claims submitted pre-discharge than after discharge. Pre-discharge programs provide Servicemembers with the opportunity to file claims for disability compensation up to 180 days prior to separation or retirement from active duty or full-time National Guard or Reserve duty (Titles 10 and 32).
          Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD)
          BDD allows a Servicemember to submit a claim for disability compensation 60 to 180 days prior to separation, retirement, or release from active duty or demobilization. BDD can help you receive VA disability benefits sooner, with a goal of within 60 days after release or discharge.

  11. Danny    

    Well, Secretary McDonald, the new year is here, & we face many challenges. I am confident that WE can conquer the doubters & problems ahead of us. Together, you & the veterans will get a handle on the problems that plague the VETERANS Administration. If WE work together there is nothing we can’t fix! HAPPY NEW YEAR BROTHERS & SISTERS!

  12. Raymond R Brown    

    I thought things were improving greatly until my Primary Care Doctor told me to stop sending him Secure Messaging, because he wasn’t going to read them anymore.
    I had some definate problems begin in April of last year, to date those problems still exist. I am left with the feeling that there is nothing more that they intend to do. I have been given drugs for pain, which knock me out at night, and leave me like a zombie during the day. I can do nothing. I have applied for increased disability compensation and that has gone nowhere. I have given up as have many of my Brothers. The only thing I see that has drastically increased with the VA, is Media PR.

    1. Robert Teets    

      Ray, There are a multitude of avenues to pursue with primary care problems. First the Doctors are required to answer within 3 days. Second the Clinic Chief can deal with the Doctor or Change your Primary Care to someone that is more responsive. Third should that not work there are a couple ways to go: 1. Contact a Patient Advocate. 2. Contact the Director/Chief of the Clinics (they will be at the parent hospital. 3. Contact the Directors Office of the Hospital or the Chief of Staff. One of these things will work. I’ve been fighting the VA for 7 years this time, learn who is who and go the extra mile to meet them. Attend the town hall meetings, good place to meet the Upper Level Staff. I was lucky to have met and talked with Bob McDonald when he was in Atlanta and he has a plan. He cares about vets and as you escalate your issues you will find the care is improved for the rest of us.

  13. James Tadlock    

    I am thankful for being an American. I am thankful for having served in the greatest military in the world. I am thankful for the benefits which VA provides for me. I had open heart surgery on 5-2-2014 at VA Medical Center in Charleston, S.C. I did great during and after the surgery. The VA takes care of all my medical needs. Medicines and everything. A big thanks to all the doctors, nurses, technicians and every caregiver at the VA.

    1. Eric    

      Note to self: Relocate to Charleston SC… except as soon as I do, they’ll switch doctors, or close down the VAMC… I’m glad to hear you had a good experience brother, and am grateful your life was spared. Please make sure your doctor and nursing staff feel exceedingly appreciated, because your experience is rare at best.

  14. Gennady vovchuk    

    I would like to know what is being done for veterans that have become very sick and dying from vaccines as well as the environment from OEF/OIF? Most doctors are testing us for basic things, but the ones that are trying to help are being told they are overstepping their authority, and or being punished or warned not to do it any longer… I personally have experienced this I am wheelchair bound and bed ridden most of the time. I have been poked in every vein, oraface, and given almost every drug known to man. I have lost weight from 235lbs to 128lbs I am six foot tall. Not one doctor has told my wife nor myself anything all we hear is well we don’t know we have to send you to another hospital years later. Some of us can no longer drive.

  15. Lawrence Goodwin    

    VA does have a wonderful foundation of sincere, hard working people from caregivers, to those who arrange and set up care, the folks who maintain facilities, and cafeteria & kitchen workers. I can’t say enough about their collective competence, friendliness, and engaging manner.
    Our problem has been higher up as we all know, and some of the acts and results were criminal in nature. All the more reason we must ensure that whistleblower protections and safeguards work in practice, Looking good on paper isn’t good enough.
    We had VA pretty well fixed back around ’97 or ’98 (Dr. Kaiser?), and look how quickly the bureau again became a tool existing largely for career bureaucrats.
    Criminal charges are the only remedy that works for the government itself, for taxpayers who work so hard to pay everyone, and for the agency’s beneficiaries. Anything less will be known for the temporary band-aid it is.
    Taxpayers, Veterans, and VA employes all want it fixed, as permanently as can be.
    Make sure the guilty pay their appropriate penalties, for Veterans, and for the future.

    1. Danny    

      I AGREE!! Most of the American government officials have become so complacent and lackadaisical in their attitude and job performance that they are no longer effective. The problem with the VETERANS Administration is just the tip of the iceberg! Our whole government seems to feel that they are above the law. We the people elected them, yet they seem so out of touch with the people. I feel that if criminal charges were filed against those that broke the law not only in the VETERANS Administration, but every branch of our government, our elected officials might stop and think before they try and pull some of the stuff they are pulling. this is a problem not only regarding veterans it is a problem that runs from the very top of our government down to the very bottom.

    2. Eric    

      “VA does have a wonderful foundation of sincere, hard working people from caregivers, to those who arrange and set up care, the folks who maintain facilities, and cafeteria & kitchen workers. I can’t say enough about their collective competence, friendliness, and engaging manner.” That is about as inaccurate a statement as one could make… let me guess – you’re a VA doctor, right?

  16. dru    

    WHY IS THAT EVERYTIME I WRITE A ______ CCCOMMENT IT NEVER GO THRU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Joshua Holcomb    

    How do I get a hold of the secretary? I just found out last night that my claim has been closed on Dec. 31st. But yet I have a scheduled appointment with VES doctors soon! So how is it some jerk pushing papers and doesn’t have the first clue of my disabilities and problems make a decision? And who is going to just make judgement calls based on what? All I have to say is I better get a rating letter!!!

    Respectfully,
    Joshua Holcomb

  18. Debra Mitchell    

    My husband has ALS. I am so grateful for all the assistance the VA has provided him. I will have to add an extra praise for the DAV in Berkeley County, SC for the work they did in getting his benefits so promptly after having spent 6 months working with the PVA in Columbia to no avail. I guess it is just who one gets to work with…the PVA in Tampa was very helpful.

  19. Veteran's Crisis Line    

    @Leonard Potter: It concerns me to hear you talk like that, especially that you are “looking forward to dying.” There are VA employees that can help 24/7. Call 1-800-273-8255 (and push 1) OR go to our live chat service by visiting http://www.veteranscrisisline.net and click on the red button in the top right corner of the page. (It says, “Click Now for Confidential Veterans Chat.”) You can also send a text message to us at 838255. A counselor will talk with you anonymously.”

    1. Eric    

      If you’re that concerned, how about not wasting money taking a salary from a Veteran’s Crisis Line that wouldn’t even need to exist if the veteran’s were receiving the care that they deserve and instead focus your energy and effort on establishing some genuine reform from within? Otherwise enough with the “canned care” statements already. If this vet swallows a Hydrashok tomorrow, nobody that works at the VA will lose a wink of sleep. Stop with the lying to our faces and false sympathy – we deserve better than that.

  20. Walt Altman    

    The 21 lies from the VA. They are doing nothing but getting bigger pay checks. I have been trying to get a VIC for 4 years. The VA is selecting minority groups and women only in the grand new system. Get used to it, if the VA is knows you are white and a male your service means nothing just like the rest of the government.

  21. Patrick jahnke    

    Why does a nurse have power over the doctors, will I got PT review my pt I was doing last 3 months try renew it 1 month ago zzzzzzz last Tue sent it in PT iowa what to review it, I did not request pt nurse did. Dub clinic so I was try get lodging on va Thurs I was told pt have paper work in they told me call my doc . I’m 2 1/2 hr drive away , the nurse told squeeze u in at 230 it a hr review by time I get home it be 6pm, Fri night. Why can’t they pay for hotel , someone at. Va iowa city want a review my case!! All I ask a month send paper work, waited 5 weeks to do it, why do these nurse back stable a veteran,

  22. Darryl    

    It is amazing that up until this COLA all of my pay was on automatic, now that I have started to ask questions about why it has taken over a year to enter my dependency claim into the computer it has now went to manual and I am going to have to wait on Atlanta regional office to enter it. They approved by dependency claim on 1/16/14 and it still has not been entered into the computer. I have a copy of the letter that they claim that they mailed, however I never received it. It feels like Atlanta regional office has decided to retaliate against me because I complained and dared to ask questions about their slow and sloppy work. It only took 5 years to get th claim through.

  23. Michelle M    

    SOMEONE, PLEASE INVESTIGATE THE AMC (Appeals Management Center). They have had my appealed claim for years and it is on its fourth, yes I said fourth, Remand due to them TOTALLY ignoring my medical records and basing their denial decision strictly on the flawed opinion of ONE (1) VA physician who keeps changing her responses. I have obtained ALL of my records (from the VA!!!!!) and from them provided a detailed account of my in service and out of service medical visits, procedures, etc….and they have still not provided a decision based on the facts. The BVA (Board of Veterans Appeals) had to threaten them on this last remand which was in September 2014 and they have yet to make a decision. The claim was filed in March 2008, yes I said 2008, and appealed March 2009. SOMEONE, DO SOMETHING, PLEASE!!!!!!

    1. Eric    

      Just once I want to see one of these rich philanthropists that loves to donate millions to some F’ing symphony somewhere or some dumb organization that sends HDTVs to Africa or whatever take a vet like Michelle and say “I’ve got your back. Instead of forking over $12 million to some worthless cause, I’m going to see to it that you have a moderately tolerable life because our government has failed you” and cover your medical and living expenses until something more permanent can be arranged. I appreciate the celebrity guest-spots on the Wounded Warrior commercials, but it’s easy to show up to be filmed when you’re a Hollywood star… it isn’t as easy to actually champion a cause. This is why it should be blatantly obvious to all of us veterans that we sacrificed for a country that couldn’t possibly care less about us. Me personally – I say fine, that’s what sacrifice means… but I still have all of my limbs, so I’m not the one to ask. Stop letting people act like they care though. If someone says “thank you for your service” politely say “thank you, but if you really want to show appreciation for me and my brothers – write your congressman; the system is broken for our nation’s veterans” and then carry on. Do not do the awkward “thanks” that I have fallen into the habit of doing and then looking for a way out because they clearly just don’t get it. Make it awkward for them too, why should we be the only ones feeling awkward in that instance? Just a thought. Hang in there Michelle, there is a medal in heaven for you, and something much worse in store for the people giving you the VA Two-Step.

      1. Danny    

        I LOVE THAT IDEA! I will use next time someone thanks me.

  24. Terrance Peterson    

    In accordance with CFR 38 17.107 and VA Directive 2010-053 and a letter directly addressed to the Secretary, tell me why is it that I addressed an issue regarding my healthcare, that the same facility that discriminated against me as an employee, have the the Human Resources Department call me ? I do not get it. Last 2 years, I made multiple disclosures to Congress and to the VA OI/G that never investigated my disclosures, referred it back to the same facility , so they can make things up about me. If that is integrity and honesty, I am not sure how reform can be possible. It is disgraceful to all veterans and their families, if the VA uses pretext themes to conspire against veterans. First of all, the honor was omitted by not even listening to my complaints, assuming arguendo wether they were true or not. It is a systematic breakdown of employees thinking that their job is equivalent to military service to have mentalities like that. I served my country and am glad to know that the VA is not the only one taking care of veterans as though they have a monopoly on it.

  25. Eric    

    What a joke. I got my Veteran’s Choice card in the mail. I live more than 40 miles from my nearest VA facility. I called the number to get clearance and they said I was not eligible. They said that “they are Veteran’s Choice, not affiliated with the VA, and I would need to contact my Primary Care Provider to obtain eligibility”. My primary care provider acts like they have no clue about this program and that I am not eligible. Amazing, the one thing that the VA is throwing in everyone’s faces right now as to how they have changed everything for the better and are now “here for the veterans” and even that is a bunch of runaround BS!!! Don’t give the VA credit for anything. Don’t give the politicians polluting our airwaves any credit for anything. They have improved NOTHING!!! The bottom line is that the doctors don’t care. They do not listen to us, they do not even let us finish our sentences or thoughts when talking to us, interrupting to hurry us out of the door, so another patient can get hurried through the turnstyles. The game is this: the more appointments they schedule the more “in demand” they look, so they can then request more $$$. Meanwhile, there is an incentive to not fix anyone, lest the VA seem actually less “in demand” and have less basis to request more $ to not be spent on actual care for veterans. We don’t need new hospitals, new clinics or new vehicles for the facilities. What we need is REAL doctors who actually care about their patients and what it is they are being paid to do. What we need are REAL advocates who understand that a veteran with a missing leg is not the same as a civilian with a broken leg. We need politicians, administrators, doctors, advocates, and nurses who are all on the same page – CARING FOR THE HEALTH OF VETERANS IS OUR TOP AND ONLY REAL PRIORITY. Until that happens, anything they put out there as a “solution” is just smoke and mirrors. Stupid me, I thought that after 9 years in the VA system I was finally going to have a shot at seeing my conditions improve instead of worsen. Nope, the VA just wanted to waste some more $ sending a bunch of useless cards in the mail to a bunch of hopeful vets.

    1. Darryl    

      I feel your pain. I have found only one doctor that will listen to me and at least try to help. The only problem is that the head of the department then overides them.

  26. Shelia Winsett    

    I am disappointed in Secretary Bob. I got an email from him stating he and Debi Bevins would investigate my case. Only Debi Bevins listened to the same General Counsel that wrote the opinion at the Board and replied to me the same. No help. My allegations of the RO placing wrong information on my VACOLS which jeopardized my chance for a fair hearing at the CAVC and kept the Court from intervening into a Writ of Mandamus. Now the CAVC has ordered I can not bring up this placing wrong information on VACOLS again in other words the VA got by with placing incorrect information and violating 38 CFR 5905 which is a federal offense. Who suffers – the veteran’s widow. For 25 years no one listens to me and covers up wrong doings which I have proof of in black and white. But the Secretary Bob listens to the same person who did not do her job correctly and investigate my case but listened to the one covering it up. Someone please help me.

  27. Shelia Winsett    

    Another problem the VA ruled differently on my case as the same circumstances in another case. Allidon v. Shinseki the RO closed a case same as it did in mine. But then admitted the letter terminating the appeal was defective. Should have been done in my case but was not. I filed a timely NOD and the VARO admitted getting the NOD and told me I would get a statement of case in eight months. Then 2 years later closed the case not allowing me my constitutional right and due process right of appeal. Now they refuse to open this case back up and finalize. Yet in Allidon they reopened it and let the appeal proceed.

    Why am I not entitled to law same as everyone else. The VA believes that since I have the record for the number of cases at the CAVC over 25 then I don’t deserve my rights. No one listens to me and I am the widow of the veteran.

    WHY can I not get justice? Does anyone know how to get thru to Secretary Bob to get him to listen. His employees is not telling him the truth.

  28. Clara C. Martin    

    Fix your website’s problems with CAPTCHA Code. Too many people have told you that it isn’t functioning properly, for example: The posted comments are kicked back when the CAPTCHA code doesn’t go through. When that happens and you try to send in another CAPTCHA code, either your comments are lost or a message pops up that your comments have already been made, and the retry (code) is a duplicate of the original post.

    Also, please add audio CAPTCHA code for visually challenged individuals like myself.

    Thanks.

  29. Jesse G. Lopez    

    I was finally rated at 100% for PTSD after 12 years of sending in documents. My rating date is June 2012, however, I had an appeal pending since prior to 2011 for a decision from 2009! I received a letter on Jan 15 2015, saying the usual; We are sorry it is taking so long for you claim…….. I spoke to someone at the 800 line and they said that on January 9, 2015 they finally moved my appeal to the last stage and that I should be owed some retro. I hope that they move now that I’m in the last phase of my appeal.

    1. Danny    

      Hey Jesse, Congratulations! Way to hang in there. Your story may be encouraging to some of our brothers & sisters.

  30. Elizabeth Anne Steinnecker    

    Stop with the b.s. propaganda who do you think we are. General Hickey you still owe me a phone call from last Sept 2014. Lets se if I get a response. We are gonna march on DC this summer see you then in your office. I hope you have answer to the b.s. BVA process????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

    LCDR USN ret.

    1. Danny    

      please keep us informed on this March!

  31. Robert Truckenmiller    

    I am very appreciative to the VA for many reasons. I am a 100% disabled Viet Nam vet with a Purple Heart and have never had a serious problem with the VA health delivery system. However, I would like to see improvements to preventative care programs. I am an active participant in the MOVE program but live over 25 miles from the Medical Center. Please consider wellness programs such as silver sneakers for those of us that live to far to use fitness equipment on a daily basis. I also have PTSD and have found that Yoga classes have significantly reduced my stress and have also lessened my arthritis pain. Please consider incorporating Yoga programs into PTST treatment regimens. Thank you for the opportunity to provide imput.

    1LT Robert Truckenmiller
    US Army Retired

  32. carol    

    HELLO…..when I requested the contact information for the VA secretary I was sent the link below. It may have to be copied and then pasted into your browser. If that fails then I have added the phone mailing address and e-mail address.

    http://answers.usa.gov/system/templates/selfservice/USAGov/#!portal/1012/article/4607/United-States-Secretary-of-Veterans-Affairs

    Contact Secretary McDonald by e-mail, or by phone or mail at:

    e-mail
    https://iris.custhelp.com/app/ask/

    Phone: 1-800-827-1000
    TTY: 1-800-829-4833
    U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
    Attention: Secretary Robert A. McDonald
    810 Vermont Avenue NW
    Washington DC 20420

    Good luck to everyone. Be assured that there is someone who reviews the e-mails and letters. I know as I sent a message via e-mail and received a personal reply and also a verbal response from local VA staff.

  33. Scott Bitner    

    I receive all of my medical care at Edward Hines, Jr. VAMC in Hines, IL. The BEST treatment. I have a problem when I call the 1-800-827-1000 number, they have not answered my call in 3 months. I have waited until 9 PM to call to request a call back, again I have not received a call back. When you are going through the call back process, the voice on the phone tells you that it’s sorry you have made an invalid choice or it does not understand your request-then it ends the call. Thank you for your time.

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