My name is Bob and “I CARE”



Bob VG Cover

Since his confirmation in August, Secretary Bob McDonald has traveled the country to speak with Veterans and VA employees. He’s hit the ground running, and although his schedule is packed with VA facility visits and employee town halls, the eighth Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs took time for a one-on-one Q&A for VA News and VAnguard Magazine.

Reynaldo Leal, VA Public Affairs Specialist:  Thank you. I guess we will start off with what does being Secretary of Veterans Affairs mean to you?

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert (Bob) McDonald:  Well, as I said during my confirmation hearing, to me, being Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs, is the ultimate in the high calling to care for the veterans who have served this country, in a sense, the one percent who have worked and defended the 100 percent. To be in a leadership position to be able to make a difference, to accomplish our mission, to serve them is the ultimate in a high calling. It is, in many ways, the culmination of my life.

After 33 years at Procter and Gamble and nine years in the military, four years of West Point, five years as an officer in the Army, it is the opportunity to take everything I have learned in all the countries of the world I have lived in and apply it here to help the U.S. Government, to help America’s veterans. So, it is a great capstone to whatever career or life I have had to date.

Leal:  How does your military experience from West Point, Rangers and Airborne training, how does that inform what you do at VA?

Secretary McDonald:  I think the fact that four years of West Point, five years in the military, primarily in the 82nd Division, as an Airborne Ranger and Officer, gives me empathy for the customers, the veterans that we are trying to serve.

While I never did serve in combat, my service did involve going to the Arctic Circle, going to Jungle Warfare School in Panama, jumping all these different places, injuries from those jumps. And so, I hope it gives me empathy for the people that I am trying to serve and, hopefully, some credibility with that population that I have at least been part of the way there during my time.

Leal:  You talk about having that empathy. Do you ever think about the soldiers that you served with and sort of now being charged with perhaps even taking care of them?

Secretary McDonald:  Well, I think about the soldiers that I have served with every single day. And I thought about that before I was here at the Veterans Affairs Department. I thought about that when I was at Procter and Gamble. When you go through these cathartic experiences together, it changes your life. And one of the things I used to teach the leaders of Procter and Gamble, I would say I can teach you all of the behaviors which, when observed from afar, somebody would label them as leadership. The one behavior, the one need I can’t teach you as a leader, necessarily, is the need to love the people you work with.

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.

One of the things you learn in the military like no other place, because of the in extreme situations you are in, is to love the people you are working with.

I think back to Sergeant Schraeder, who was with me in the Arctic and because of the cold weather, one of our 4.2-inch mortar tubes blew up and a piece of the base cap hit him in the abdomen. We had to medivac him out.

I think about PFC Light, who was my driver and radio/telephone operator in the 82nd Airborne Division and the number of jumps we would go on together. The bonds that you form just last a lifetime.

I think about Sergeant Cuff, who was a squad leader. I think about Sergeant Turner who ran the Fire Direction Center for our 4.2-inch mortar platoon.

I remember the day that I jumped into a drop zone in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg and my battalion commander, Dave Harris, came and picked me up on the drop zone in a Jeep. He said, “Throw your parachute in the Jeep. We went to a firing range. We got to the firing range. He fired the platoon leader who was running the 4.2 inch mortar platoon. We had just finished last in the division on our readiness test. And he said, Lieutenant McDonald, a year from now I want this platoon to be one of the best in the division.

These are life-changing experiences. And I am happy to report that a year later we were the second best in the division. Unfortunately, we missed first best by a little bit.

Leal: We call you sir, we call you Secretary McDonald and you like being called by your first name. Why is that important?

Secretary McDonald:  Well, I joke with folks that I was named Bob when I was born. I am Bob, now as Secretary. And I will be Bob after I am done being Secretary. But while that sounds more of a joke or a little bit trite, there is a really a serious purpose behind it.

I think one of the things that we have got to do as an organization is we have got to get better communications from the top to the bottom of the organization. We have got to engage everyone in the organization, whether they are union member employees, GS employees, SEC employees, Title 38 employees. Everybody is on the same team. Everybody’s got the same dream. And we have got to work together like a family. We have got to be able to tell each other when things are going wrong and when things are going right. We have to be able to admit ourselves when things are going wrong and not have a fear of reprisal or some other thing.

I want everybody to be a whistleblower. I don’t think you need to fit the legal definition of a whistle blower but I want everybody every day to feel responsibility for improving the way we serve veterans. We should look at everything we do from the lens of the veteran. And if something is not going right, we should change it.

I often tell employees of Veterans Affairs that my organization model is different than others. Typically, an organization model is thought to be hierarchical. It is thought to be a pyramid. And typically, the CEO or the Secretary, in this case, would be on top and the lower ranking employees would be the ones that interface with the veteran. Well, in a service organization like ours where we are serving veterans every single day, that is our only reason for being, we really should invert that pyramid. And the pyramid should be inverted where the broad part is at the top and the apex is at the bottom. And the person at the bottom is me, the Secretary, trying to help those people who are facing the veteran.

So, it is the people facing the veteran every single day providing services to those veterans that are the most critically important people in the organization. And that is why I think being on a first name basis makes us more like family, gives us empathy for that veteran and would allow us to work together with one dream as one team and one family.

Leal:  As former CEO of Procter and Gamble, you have extensive experience in the private sector when it comes to workforce management and customer service. How does that translate to veterans?

Secretary McDonald:  Well at the Procter and Gamble Company, we are about an 84 billion dollar company. We operate in about 200 countries around the world. And every day, somewhere in the world, about five billion people use at least one Procter and Gamble product. Now, obviously, we would like it to be more. But there is an immense, immense laser-like focus on the customer, every single customer. If you go around the Procter and Gamble headquarters around the world, you will see nothing on the walls but pictures of consumers using our products. We revere those consumers. We focus on what they need and we work hard to meet their needs. Tremendous empathy.

The purpose of the company is to improve the lives of the world’s consumers. And we like to say that the consumer is boss. That is who we serve.

Well, the analogy is very clear here at Veterans Affairs. Our boss is the veteran. Our customer is the veteran. We should look at everything we do through the lens of that veteran and make sure we are doing everything we can to help that veteran and do nothing more. In other words, strip out all the unnecessary work that we are doing that doesn’t focus on helping the veteran.

It is a tremendous calling to be able to make a difference in the life of another person. And to be able to do that with a veteran I think is even a higher calling because of what that have done for all of us.

So that laser-like focus on customer satisfaction on providing the veteran the care they need is really what is critically important, from my experience.

Leal:  Media reports have highlighted several instances where VA employees weren’t serving the veteran well in the past. Why do you think that happens and how do we get everyone on the same page when it comes to seeing things through, like you say, “the lens of the veteran?”I CARE logo final

Secretary McDonald:  I think the reason some employees fail to live up to our high care values is that oftentimes in large organizations the measures within the organization, the inertia within the organization tends to blind people from the ultimate goal of the organization. Here, at Veterans Affairs, our ultimate goal is to serve the veteran. That is the only reason we exist. But there are times where a metric may be set like 14 days and that metric becomes an outcome, rather than a means to an outcome. The outcome has got to be quality care for veterans in a timely way. That has got to be the outcome. Fourteen days was supposed to be a means to that outcomes but it ended up becoming an outcome.

That is not unusual in large organizations. Sometimes large organizations take on a life of their own and they forget about their customer. It happened with the Procter and Gamble Company around 1999. We recommitted ourselves to the consumer is boss. It has happened here. That is why I have asked everyone to recommit themselves to our mission of caring for the veteran and to our values of I CARE. It is time to renew that and we should renew that every year so that this doesn’t happen again.

Leal:  Some veterans who might not have had the best experience with VA, may look at I CARE as just an acronym. How do you see VA employees changing those veterans’ minds and delivering the core values of the Department?

Secretary McDonald:  Right. The only way to change a veteran’s mind and to regain the trust that we may have lost is really to do it one veteran at a time and one VA employee at a time.

It reminds me of the story of the two men on the beach and beach is loaded with starfish who are stranded, as the tide receded. And this old man is walking around the beach picking up starfish and throwing them back in the water so they could live. And the young man says to the old man, you know, why are you doing this?  You can’t possibly make a difference for all these starfish. We have nine million veterans who are part of the Veterans Affairs activity. How do I get to all nine million at one time?  And the old man said well, it may not make a difference. I may not be able to throw all of them back in the sea but it does make a difference to this one, as he throws it back in the sea. And that is what we have got to do. We have got to make a difference to every single veteran we interface with, one at a time, not necessarily worrying about the big picture of trust but earning it back one by one by one by one. It is all of our responsibilities and I hope all of the 340,000 employees of Veterans Affairs will work hard to do that for the nine million veterans that we are now serving.

Leal: You brought up the topic of accountability in your speeches to VSOs. What does accountability at VA look like and how does it line up with I CARE?

Secretary McDonald:  Accountability is really about responsibility. It is about doing the right thing every single day. I remember my first day at West Point. As a new cadet, even before you become a cadet, you are thought to be the lowest form of life on earth. And as that lowest form of life on earth, to any situation, you are only allowed four answers. Those four answers are:  yes, sir; no, sir; sir, I do not understand; and no excuse, sir. No excuse is perhaps the most powerful answer in the world. Implicit in that is no excuse and it won’t happen again, which is a very important part of it, but it shows that you take responsibility. You take responsibility for the action and you will correct it and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Once you do that, the debate is over.

And I think in our particular case, we need to say no excuse more often. We need to take responsibility and we need to fix what went wrong and make sure it doesn’t happen again. That is an important part of a learning organization. Organizations do make mistakes. It is going to happen. Do we have a culture where people can stand up and admit they made a mistake without fear of some kind of retribution and then make sure everybody in the organization learns from that mistake?

Leal: Recently you went to North Carolina to recruit to get the best and the brightest. How important is it, though, to reassure good current employees and also those potential employees that VA is a great place to work at and they should be proud to serve at VA?

Secretary McDonald:  Well, the need to regain the trust of employees is as important as regaining the trust of the public. So, one of the reasons I have been going out to Phoenix, Las Vegas, Reno, Memphis, Philadelphia tomorrow, North Carolina, Durham, North Carolina, Charlotte, North Carolina, the reason I have been going out to meet with employees is to listen to their concerns but also to reinforce in their mind that we do serve a high calling, that we know that the majority of employees have not violated our I CARE values or our mission, and to, hopefully, inspire them that I appreciate what they are doing and so do the myriad of veterans who may not be public in the newspaper and the press, but tell them, on a daily basis.

I have met with so many veterans in so many different facilities and I have to tell you the vast majority of them are thrilled with the care they get. They love the caregivers at the VA. And they are thankful for what we do. So, going out and meeting with people, trying to thank them for what they are doing and inspiring them is part of regaining the employee trust.

Look, we are going to win. Everybody wants to be on a winning team. Every employee I have talked to wants to be on a winning team. This is a winning team. We had a little bit of a setback but think of that as an inning or a quarter of the game and we are going to win the game. And my job is to help employees realize that, to give them the leadership, to give them the strategies, to give them the systems and the culture, the high performance organization to do that. And I think we are well on our way.

VA's Core Values

VA’s Core Values

Leal:  I really found it interesting when you talked about I CARE and how you sort of stumbled upon it and how that would have been the first thing you would have come up with but it was already in place. Walk me through that a little bit. Like how important was it to find that there was already that seed there for I CARE?

Secretary McDonald:  Well, the fact that I CARE already existed and a sound, strategic plan already existed is what makes me confident that we can get this thing turned around quickly and headed in the right direction.

When I was preparing for my Senate confirmation hearings, I was doing my due diligence on the organization. While we have doctors that diagnose patients, as a leader of larger organizations over many decades, I tend to be a doctor of organizational science, I guess. So, I used the model I use for high performance organization to understand what was going wrong.

So, I studied our leadership. I studied our strategies. I studied our systems. I studied our culture. I studied our purpose, values, and principles. And what I discovered was we had a great mission and it was all around the organization. We had great values and we had a very sound strategic plan. It needs to be renewed but it is a very sound strategic plan.

And what befuddled me was how did we have those things, yet something went wrong?

So, when I saw those and I was testifying in front of the Senate, I actually held up the strategic plan, the I CARE, and so forth and I said this is very sound.

We just need to implement it. The issue was it was developed in the right way. Employees all over the country were involved in developing I CARE and the strategic plan. But once we developed it, we didn’t deploy it.

What do I mean by that?  What I mean is cascading levels of the organization do not have strategies or action plans that tie back to that strategic plan. Every employee doesn’t have an action plan in their personnel review that ties back to that strategic action plan.

So, what we are going to be doing is renewing that strategic plan and then going in and making sure we deploy it throughout the organization by level, by layer, until we get to the lowest level employee, the one on top of the pyramid, who has an action plan that ties back to that strategic plan.

It is great to have an inspiring mission but people have to have line of sight from their behavior every single day back to that mission. What happened in our organization is we have a lot of behavior every single day where the employee says I don’t understand why I am doing this because it has nothing to do with serving veterans. We have got to get rid of that stuff and focus only on serving the veterans.

 

Author

Reynaldo Leal

– Reynaldo Leal is a public affairs officer for VA’s office of Digital Media Engagement and member for the VAntage Point’s staff. 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.

Comments

  1. Debbie Cannady    

    Hey Bob, you need to visit Tampa FL VA. It takes 5-6 months to get into neurology. I am suffering nerve issues in my lower body and can’t get into until March. Come down here and CARE please.

  2. Debbie    

    Hey Bob, you need to visit Tampa FL VA where it takes 5-6 months to get into the neurology clinic. I am suffering nerve damage in my lower body and can’t get in until March. I really think that is a crock of crap. You need to get down here and CARE.

  3. gary huyck    

    went to va emergency august 15th with back pain. unable to walk more than 20 feet
    emergency room doctor said he did not see problem in x-ray. the male nurse said I was being dramatic. gave me pain medication and sent me home at 5:00 pm. I was unable to walk, so they pushed me out to my truck in a wheel chair. the following Monday went back to my primary physician. gave me different pain medication. Wednesday I was unable to walk or get out of bed/ went for emergency mri and was admitted to hospital. emergency surgery the following day. vertebrae pinched nerves in lower back. now I appear to have permanent nerve damage. how lucky am I???

  4. LeonKnife    

    “My name is Bob and I care”.I appreciate points that Lloyd Bardell made. This type of analysis should go to public debate and Congress over and over again, to let people understand the problem.

  5. Lee Glembot    

    Dear Bob,

    I am a Vietnam, Vet and not signed up for VA. Been an observer of the actions taken or lack of actions taken by the VA to straighten out existing problems. We have all heard all the rhetoric and it is time for accountability.

    Allowing these wonderful administrators who have deceived and lied to the US government about care given to vets their bonuses and allowing them an early retirement does nothing to make a statement of accountability. Get a set and go after this folks. They should be fired not given a golden parachute to retirement.. In some cases there should be criminal charges filed. You want to really clean up VA act start policing these folks.

    How long does it take to fire these folks. Prime example look at your predecessor. Let weed these leaches out and get folks that are dedicated to actually care about the vets. The best solution would be to hire vets. All branches have admin., medical, hospital and dispensary care and come out looking for jobs.

    I figure this is just a sight to allow vets to blow off steam and you are never going to read this but wake up and get it done.

    Lee Glembot
    Commander
    American Legion Post 186
    Little River, SC 29566

  6. Dave    

    Bob,

    Reading through these comments after reading your interview transcript has left me with the impression that you have a mighty task ahead of you. I hope, for your sake and mine, that your vision and strategy are correct. You have 9 million people (and counting) watching you and hoping the same. Good luck, sir.

  7. Patrick McDonald    

    Bob, the VA waste millions of dollars in postage in mailing out drugs. Quit sending insulin in 18 day supplies next day air. Yes it has to come next day air but 1 vial. That’s a cooler, box, plastic bag, 2 or 3 cold packs and an inulatorpad. Plus labor and postage. If a person has been taking maintenance drugs for high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, stomach meds and other needs send them out in 90 day supplies. Less bottles, less shipping bags, less postage and less labor. Spend money like it is coming out of your personal checking account. I know that narcotics have to come out in 28-30day supplies but other meds need to be sent out in quantity to save millions

  8. ARNOLD CABRAL    

    My belief is a veteran doctor make a medical mistake should be written up no matter how small it is remember i am saying a clerical mistake plus if it does happens more once they should be fine and fired what you think medical professionals and VETERANS open for remarks my email address is arnieandcaroline13@cableone.net my name is once again is ARNOLD CABRAL

  9. Adib-Hassan Omar    

    Ok Bob, how does a veteran in need of intervention by you or another with the juice to get a complaint or grievance past the GATE KEEPERS within the system? The V.A. has insulated leadership from the very veteran that every one claims to be thankful to for his or her services. Sincerely, Adib-Hassan Omar

  10. David J. Icenhower    

    Personally, I believe the best care for Veterans will come from Veterans, yet only one third of the VA workforce is composed of men and women who have served our nation proudly in uniform. Think that this percentage is even much lower within the ranks of the administrative staff which is leading the VA. It seems that many of those people are lifelong bureaucrats with little to no health care leadership experience outside of the VA.

    Wouldn’t are Veterans be better served by a person that has been in the same boots as their patients have been in. There are many Veterans with extensive health care expertise who would be able to provide quality care to our proud American Warriors.

  11. Julia Briggs    

    The “Excellence” portion of the I CARE mission: “Strive for … continuous improvement. Be … decisive in leadership, accountable for my actions, willing to admit mistakes, and rigorous in correcting them.”
    Bob, you & USB Hickey have been hearing over & and over from me directly, & through Ms. Greenwell, of the horror of my having been sexually exploited, raped, & then stalked by a physician that worked for the San Antonio VAMC. In 1986! I am getting no justice. I finally got 1151 claim approved on Apr. 1, but they said my effective date is Jan. 27, 2014, which is purely retaliatory, because it is the date that I wrote the White House & copied Sec. Shinseki & the two women named above. Should have been backdated to 1987, when I first was making it clear to everyone in the VA health system that I was in really bad shape from having endured this trauma. Vermont Ave. keeps having clueless VARO Montgomery staff call me, rather than someone with real authority to fix this, NOW. Many things have been misinterpreted regarding the dates, documents submitted even thru the Service Officers at AL Dept of Vets Affairs in Mar/Apr 2014 are lost, things are miscategorized.
    You know the VA is mandated to correct its prior standard it was holding victims of PTSD from a sexual assault to the wrong burden, & these things are supposed to be fixed. I have PLENTY of documentation where VA psychiatrists mis-interpreted things decades ago, said in 1993 for instance I had every symptom of PTSD but despite the fact that I was reporting a rape, sexual exploitation of my body inside the doctor’s office in the VAMC in the guise of pain treatment, & stalking so bad that after I left the state he FLEW OUT & showed up to try and intimidate me & perhaps more sex abuse. But this VA psychologist says my case did not meet Criteria A, the traumatic event. The Doc’s TX Med license was revoked for life in 95 because he got caught exploiting a 2nd patient!
    Bob, this has to stop. I want my emails/calls to Vermont Ave replied to from up in DC, not VARO or PAO rep in the Birmingham & Indianapolis hospitals. In the last 3 weeks, the expected completion date on eBenefits has been rolled back twice, now it is estimated to take seven months longer than it had been reporting for months.
    With all due respect, I don’t like referring to you as “Bob.” Secretary McDonald, get in touch with me, let’s get my back benefits, admissions from the VA of how their doctor damaged me & major apologies. Thank you.

  12. Jim    

    Injured my knee in the early 70s while serving in the Marine Corps . Had surgery while on active duty . I finally got tired of the pain and signed up for VA benefits with the hopes they would fix the problem I applied for disability around 2002 about a year after getting into the VA system . There are a lot of veterans out there running around who never use their benefits . It was 30 years after leaving active duty I signed up . My claim came back rejected and the wrong knee was listed on the rejection . Finally the company I worked for did a total knee replacement , something I could never get the VA interested in and I had copies of some of my original active duty medical records . The rejection said I didn’t have enough evidence and called it the left knee when it was actually my right knee. Very frustrating. No wonder many vets just throw their hands up and say forget it in frustration. I did apply for and received compensation but felt it should have been back dated to my first chain since they screwed the first claim up .

    1. Julia Perry    

      Jim, I agree with you about backdated. Start a new claim, but this time, call it a report of a Clear and Unmistakable Error. It’s the only way to get them to waive the fact that every single appeal you filed may not have happened within 365 days and the try to claim those past falacious decisions were final.
      That being said, I think you ought to consider yourself lucky that you had coverage through your job and someone else did the knee replacement!
      P.S. click on my name in red & see my horror story

  13. patrick jahnke    

    BOB then why are u making. A video saying veterans are drug user.VSO told me this, veterans head office is making a video about the veterans are druggies. We all fought for our county. We got every injury from A to Z GAVE US PAIN PILLS FIGHT THE PAIN. KNOW WERE STOPING GIVE NARCOTICS TO ALL VETERANS COLD. MY FEELING WE FOUGHT FOR THE USA, KNOW WERE KNOCK US VETERAN TO THE BOTTOM. AND WE FIGHT BACK, AND GIVE BONUS TO THE DOCTORS THEY STOP GIVING THE NARCOTICS. WHY ?? THEN NEWS MEDIA TAKE THE VA SIDE, NOT THE VETERANS VIEW POINT. IT ON CUTING FLOOR!!

  14. linda    

    I have been trying for 6 years to get some benefits for my husband and still don’t get anything, especially travel pay. He service 2 tours in Vietnam and they say he doesn’t have AGENT ORANGE’ yes he was on a ship in the Navy but the planes fly over the ships. He also has a lot of the AGENT ORANGE symptoms, Diabetes, heart problems, kidney problems, breathing problems and DEPRESSION NOW. Wake up VA, and we get treated bad everytime we go to VA E.R I have had security called on me because I ask for help for my husband, And also asked If I was having suicide thoughts< NO. but my husband has. I need some BENFITS help. please

    1. Julia Perry    

      VA and every other sector of the federal government need to stop protecting Monsanto and Dow, and do right by these poor sufferers of Agent Orange, and their disabled children. Shameful.

    2. Lee Glembot    

      Linda,

      Go to the nearest American Legion or VFW Post and ask to speak to the Service Officer they can file additional paperwork on your husbands behalf. Document the process as it has happened and in the future for further claims.

      Lee Glembot
      Commander
      American Legion Post 186
      Little River, SC

  15. 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 – 1. quick
    denial of even covered claims forcing appeals with NOD – then one must
    wait for hearing with the BVA judge, then one must wait for the judge to
    review again – 3 years or more later, and then remand again because the
    VA RO has intentionally not fully complied with its response to the BVA
    again, again after several years of waiting time on behalf of the
    veteran and thus and so on. Why a 2 – step BVA process to begin with
    with only 65 judges? No other court like system does this. why can’t the
    judge make a decision within 30 days of the initial hearing? Why? – to
    create the backlog which serves both as a de facto denial and also to
    perpetuate the work of the VA employees through the endless and
    unaccountable circulation of paper at will and according to its own
    decision to ever get to a file – it may be decades.

    1. Julia Perry    

      I really like the points that Lloyd Bardell made. Exactly the things that are causing us disabled vets our years’ worth of problems. Exactly the type of analysis that the public and Congress need to be hearing over and over!

  16. Norm W    

    Well, Bob; you have a lot of veterans that don’t exactly believe your remark that you care. Yet, you have not responded to any of those posted on this VA website. Don’t you even bother to see what veterans are saying and all the horrendous situations that they/we/me have to endure?
    If you truly CARE, then start responding to some of the posts on here and have a full explanation as to their problems. Actions speak louder than words. SHOW US HOW MUCH YOU CARE !!!!!

  17. John McCarey    

    Talk is cheap! Why haven’t criminal charges been brought against these non veteran criminals. Your devil made them do it does not sit well with vets. I have complained to the VA I through Peter Johnson Jr at Fox News and have never heard back. Great progress.

  18. John H Adams    

    Perfect example of the VA I wrote a reply and the VA is going to Moderate It!

    John H Adams says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    October 10, 2014 at 9:31 am
    Dont Kid yourself “Bob” you dont care. If you cared about Veterans you would stop traveling around the country wasting VA Money and get to the JOB of firing every VA executive who allowed this mess to happen. I see your LAME excuses on the TV. 300,000 Claim Back log!!! It has taken me over 15 Months just add a dependent to my VA disability account and still counting!!! Ive have Trouble tickets…personal calls and NOTHING Has happened. The VA is completely OUT OF CONTROL and you are running around Blabbing. Get in your office and get to WORK.

    1. Megan Moloney    

      All comments on VAntage Point are moderated for appropriate content, specifically to review comments that might include personal medical information, that do not directly relate to VA, or include abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, or personal attacks.

      You can read more about that on the disclaimer tab at the top of our blog.

  19. John H Adams    

    Dont Kid yourself “Bob” you dont care. If you cared about Veterans you would stop traveling around the country wasting VA Money and get to the JOB of firing every VA executive who allowed this mess to happen. I see your LAME excuses on the TV. 300,000 Claim Back log!!! It has taken me over 15 Months just add a dependent to my VA disability account and still counting!!! Ive have Trouble tickets…personal calls and NOTHING Has happened. The VA is completely OUT OF CONTROL and you are running around Blabbing. Get in your office and get to WORK.

  20. patrick jahnke    

    If BOB cares why is it we veteran can not sent him a email or a msg to him? Without going. Thru IG ? IG told call another place, then they told me to send a letter to another place. Pass the buck, Too some one else, like the doctor due pass the veteran to wrong clinic to get help, and go thru their hoops, to find some one who really cares for a veteran. My feeling when they have these meeting they need to give at least 72 hr notice thru, the news, newspaper, and VSO a meeting going to happen. I try find madison wi town meeting it was not on their. News said it had over 700 complaints past 2 yrs and give VSO 2pm notice about town meeting same day. It was on news also .

  21. james ware    

    I wish he do something with the Jackson Ms. v.a. They are so messed up they don’t have your medical record prior to your visit. Also you have doctors that put in your medical records that they saw you then enter there treatment . When you was never there.And to ask about getting the right medical information recorded in your records never happen. And also about the time one doctor gets your medical information,. then your giving a new doctor once every year. and they loss for 6 months and plenty of other major problems that needs to be corrected.

  22. Bart Iannaccone    

    Sir,please immediately address the problem of agent Orange exposure claims from guam during the Vietnam war,I joined the navy in 1965 while I was in high school,I felt very serious about what I was begin told by the media ,I even reenlisted after my first tour.I am going to a veterans hearing soon I hope you realize that the man you replaced was misinformed about the agent Orange exposure claims can not be denied any longer.Please do the right thing and give the VETERANS exposed to agent Orange the benefits they earned on active duty during the Vietnam war.justice delayed is justice denied .Sincerely,Bart iannaccone

    1. linda    

      AMEN for Agent Orange benfits

      1. Donna    

        Very thoughtful answer – and I couldn’t agree more. The Vietnam Veterans are really having a difficult time. Claims are denied over and over. Prostate cancer is approved for a year – then the VA cuts the benefit by 90% – that is so disheartening! It doesn’t take into account the after effects of treatments, or the effects as a whole. If you are not wearing depends you are considered ok.

        So may other cancers came from AO – and were recommended to be covered back in 1994 – yet the VA denies them

        Agent Orange created a life of hell for the veterans and their spouses – and it’s the “gift” that keeps on giving. I know because it’s with us every day.

  23. joseph h armstrong    

    Secretary McDonald
    Sir I am a Veteran of 1970-1975 in which I have a question. I had problems after I got out of the Military. This is my question: I was awarded in Dec. 2012. In which I had got Marriage in Aug 2010. I sent in all the paperwork need for the claim of dependency. (my wife and daughter, son). I did this in 2012 and as of now my wife which is sick(seizures/fibromyalgia) that keep us up sometime all night. I pay a contractor that did finish our downstair bedroom. I had to get another one that cost me still more to correct some of what he had did wrong. After 1 and 1/2 year to get where we could move down. Adding my family as dependents I guess take some time because of work load. Her condition and mind. We have it hard to help ourselves managing ok. We go out some to church and visit people. We have good days and most bad. Would it help to get them claim like our done sooner? Praying it can happen before I die. Thanks JosephH.Armstrong [phone number removed]

  24. Sandra Demoruelle    

    Thanks to both Mr.Leal and Secretary McDonald for an insightful interview that asked interesting questions and had thoughtful answers.

    Having read the current VA Strategic Plan, I thought it lacked the outcome oriented action plan that would have facilitated implementation and then evaluation of the results. It is heartening to hear this will be addressed down to the individual action plan level. I hope equal attention will be given to developing evaluation measures for future guidance.

    Further commendation for the emphasis on Veteran outcomes. From my own experience grantwriting, through the years there has been an growing requirement from funders for programs with personal outcomes that add up to impacts on communities.

  25. patrick jahnke    

    Why did madison va give short notice? They send emails at2 pm for a 5 o’clock meeting. If I know I would been their give my though what madison va did to veteran hit rock bottom with health care, take meds off veterans cold. , forgot side effect when u Dont take narcotics drugs. Let veteran deal with pain and withdraws. Give veteran bs hoops and ladders to get meds back maybe a yr. 8 months for me know. No help with my pain scar tissue damage.

  26. Dascil Lynn    

    ATTENTION:
    Can you please help a female veteran who recent graduated find a job in Human Services/Social Work its been very hard locating work with veterans population.
    thanks, Goldie

    1. Megan Moloney    

      If you haven’t already done so, visit the website for VA’s Center for Women Veterans. There are some links there under “Resources for Women Veterans” that may assist with your search. http://www.va.gov/womenvet/

  27. dan moore    

    hi bob, how about helping me out with my hearing loss the VA is screwing out of, I wear hearing aids va says it`s a pre existing condition ,I worked at the jet engine test cell bien hoa vn1967-68 test cell clark ab pi 68-70 the va makes me feel like it`s my fault!

  28. Norm W    

    I am still waiting for some of the employees of the V.A. to read and truly understand the “I Care” program. Many are still so rude, demeaning, insulting, and downright a bunch of SOBs to we veterans that the Secretary should make those people have to pretend to be a “nobody” veteran for one day seeking care from the VA to let them see how they treat us, then, maybe some of those jerks would finally understand that all we want is to be respected and given proper medical care. I am still waiting, Bob. What are you going to do with those a-holes that still insist on disrespecting our veterans? Are you going to fire them, re-train them or what? You know that it is going on, so, when is it going to stop?

  29. Lynn Halle    

    I so want to believe that he is going to change things, but he is doing nothing to remove anyone here in Providence RI . Actions speak louder than words, and right now I have only heard words.

    1. JUST ANOTHER DAV    

      agree, backlogs are 3-4 years. Blew my hearing during …… What do u think? VA says service connected with 0 percent.. Private doctors says 50 percent or more.. Himmmm. The guy who is trying to add his dependents? Good Luck man, I have been waiting 2 years and 8 months. Other injuries? Good luck with your appeals guys..3-5 years. Now if you are 100 percent service veterans’ dependent(which never served), ChampVA will pay for everything in the private sector, 1000 percent better than VA.(billions).
      The whole process was invented to screw Vets. So we can complain all we want, NOTHING will change. Politicians with connections with Executive service preference hiring will make their 300K salaries and will preach like they are helping u.. Less than 18 percent(Total 300K) of the Vets working for VA. The rest? Incompetent and unqualified in thousands(80 percent NON Vets) hired by the VA by the last VA Secretary to push his own agenda. What agenda was that? We all know but we don’t want to know right? So, what will happen? Not a damn thing LOL..IG? LOLLL!! Wait times, cheating on scheduling, hiring practices, VA and ChampVA fraud, quality of care? People, nobody cares. Please don’t rock the boat Vets.. They love it the way it is
      We could write thousands of compaints? Agent Orange, Gulf War sickness etc..
      Why they should they admit it? They are too busy awarding war contracts to their buddies in Halliburton and Lockeed and make billions from it…I am sure this post will vanish lol.. All these facts are sad and unfortunate, nevertheless, all u VETS(my brothers and sisters) keep up the pressure on the Congress and PLEASE educate yourself who to vote next time around, including your local elections.

  30. Don Clayton    

    I know of two dishonorably discharged persons, both are got service connected disability from the Detroit Dept. of Veterans Affairs….. One was discharged for drug use the other for too many blanket parties!!!!!! And then there are honorably discharged people who only get the run around from the VA… Seems that the people at the Detroit Dept of Veterans Affaires who decides who gets service connected disability dislike veterans that served their country honorably!!!

  31. Richard Overbey    

    Im a 10 year veteran without medical benefits.
    Im a catagory 8 after the 2003 law was passed based on incomes of the veterans.
    When is this going to be fixed. I cant afford the medical bills.
    Im in debt from having cancer.

  32. marvin s. johnson    

    Once again, nothing said aout the disgraceful backlog of VA claims and how the VA intends to settle them. Absolutely a dam shame! Don’t tell us you appreciate our service. This willful delay on the VA’s part fosters the lack of trust and disdain many, many veterans have for the VA and our government! Unbelievable affront to all who served.

    1. John H Adams    

      Going on 15 MONTHS Just to add a spouse!!! Bob, send me an email and tell me why it takes years to add a dependent. I’ve used eBenefits IT DOES NOT WORK, even if it accepts your application it still WILL NOT ADD YOUR DEPENDENT. Bob, how long will it take you to “stop talking” and writing stupid Mission statements and get to work. I was a Colonel in the USAF for 27 years and a software engineer, I could solve this problem in a month. You are sooooooo typical of OBAMA appointees, talk, talk, talk and NO action.

      1. Megan Moloney    

        I don’t know if this is the system you used to add a spouse, but there is a newer tool on eBenefits to do so. You can read about it at
        http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/13707/new-technology-automates-veterans-requests-to-update-family-member-status/

    2. Douglas    

      Bob is smart, honest, sincere and service oriented. I was skeptical at first, but now, after hearing him a few times, I believe he really does care and will do everything he can to fix the problems. I have been in the system about 29 years. We should not be impatient and/or, critical. He understands many are suffering. We needed his different style of management. Give Secretary McDonald, time to work out the massive problems that he is dealing with. I call it the “Bloodthirsty Mega VAempire” and have also suffered multiple injustices over the years; as many other Veterans have. VA has caused thousands of deaths of Veterans from delays, mistakes and manipulations of valid Veteran claims and medical care. My Korean War combat Veteran Dad fell victim to the VA delays and mistakes; he died a premature death at age 66 from medication mix ups and mistakes. I was almost a statistic due to surgery recovery room overdose and mishaps. The VA system and many Veterans have suffered much damage from a handful of corrupt managers. The majority of VA workers are good, hard working and caring people. A few greedy, prideful, arrogant, wasteful, selfish leaders in management have caused problems for Veterans and VA employees.

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