Veteran posts on Reddit her experience contacting Secretary McDonald


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When Secretary Bob McDonald took office he immediately set off on a series of engagements to regain trust with Veterans. He has visited dozens VA hospitals across the country and mandated all VA facilities conduct quarterly town halls to promote accountability and an open dialogue with Veterans.

When Bob gave out his personal cell phone number and e-mail address at a press conference, many dismissed it as a PR move. But, when he said he wanted to open up the VA culture, he meant it.

Sec. Bob McDonald visits Phoenix and Las Vegas VAMC“I did that on purpose,” McDonald said with a smile at the Student Veterans of America National Conference. “I did because I want to demonstrate to the employees at VA how we need to think about our customers. We don’t hide from you. We want you to call us. We want to deal with your problems … and now we’re building that capability internally, so you might not always get an answer from me but somebody will try to help you out.”

Since then, hundreds of Veterans have called and e-mailed Bob. Sometimes he answers, sometimes his staff answers, but more importantly the Veteran gets an answer.

On Jan. 7, Reddit user CyberVictimizer posted to r/Veterans that her husband was having problems receiving care for his back pain. The VA doctor prescribed weight loss, but her husband claimed that he wouldn’t be able to lose weight until his pain subsided. A common plight for many people and Veterans. He wanted an MRI.

CyberVictimizer asked the Reddit Veteran community what could her husband do?

She received great advice ranging from using the Choice Act to consulting a Veteran Service Organization. Then user EatTheBankers responded “Sec McDonald’s personal cell# (513)509-8454. You can leave a message. His email is robert.a.mcdonald@va.gov.”

Two weeks later, CyberVictimizer posted UPDATE: VA hospital won’t perform necessary tests. Where do we go from here? She reported that she sent Secretary McDonald an e-mail and the VA clinic manager called her husband soon after to schedule him for the tests he requested. Problem solved.

This isn’t an exception. Many Veterans have expressed their surprise and excitement in the Veteran subreddit about similar experiences.

Reddit user xcdc802 shares his experience calling Secretary McDonald

Reddit user xcdc802 shares his experience calling Secretary McDonald

While all Veterans are invited to call or e-mail Bob, there are several avenues that can be tried first.

  1. Speak to a patient advocate. These are VA employees whose sole mission is to address the concerns Veterans have with their health care. The patient advocates are listed on every VA hospital website.
  2. Request a different primary care physician. If your current physician doesn’t work for you, you should find someone who does.
  3. Consult with a Veteran service organization. These organizations are vital to the VA and Veterans because they have vast experience navigating the VA system.
  4. Tweet your question using the hashtag #VetQ. VA and Veteran service organizations monitor this hashtag to answer your questions.
  5. Use the Inquiry Routing & Information System (IRIS). This is the only secure way to ask personal questions. IRIS also has a list of frequently asked questions.
  6. Reach out to your local member of Congress.
  7. Search the Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors online handbook.

Veterans use r/Veterans  to vent, share information and seek help using their Veteran benefits. It’s a great resource that exemplifies the best of our community.

Have you called or e-mailed Bob? How did it go? Let us know in the comments.

Author

Tim Hudak

  joined the VA in December 2013 and is on the Veterans Experience Office team. Tim, a Chicago-land native enlisted in the Marine Corps straight out of high school. As an intelligence analyst he deployed to Al Anbar province, Iraq with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363 in 2006 and 2008. After the Marine Corps, Tim used the GI Bill to earn a degree in Intelligence Studies from Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa., and co-founded the university’s first student Veteran organization. Tim is active in many Veteran organizations.

Comments

  1. Paul    

    VA Administration, from local Director down needs external (Not VA-OIG) oversight. OIG is undermanned and avoids most cases, sending complaints back to corrupt Directors are worthless. I don’t have a solution, but from an employees perspective; Real oversight on VA employee harassment, abuse, retaliation needs to be instituted somehow.

  2. Xavier Jones    

    I recently went to the VA and filed a compensation application because I came down with COPD. I was told that it was a result of my having been a smoker. I didn’t start smoking until I went into the military. And everytime you stop on a field march you asked “Smoke em if you got em”. Now aside from that there were some events that took place on my field site that I believe was directly linked to my choice to start smoking. It started a habit that was hard for me to break. And now that I have COPD the military is telling me that they cant be held responsible. THEY issued a statement saying this. But I’m still suffering with this ailment. I and others in a similar situation need help with this.

    1. Bruce Annear    

      I too started smoking in boot camp and continued after my enlistment. 25 years later a doctor told me I had COPD. 5 years later I started developing Pneumonia that would recurring every 3 months. I went to the VA Hospital and almost died from a MRSA infected lung. They told me I would die within 10 days. On day 16 they put me in a hospice where I was supposed to die within 90 days. Still alive, they put me in a nursing home. They gave me a 100% non-service connected pension with aid and attendance. I was able to move out 14 months later into an assisted living Seniors complex by putting together a pair of State Grants. I moved from the Dallas VA System to the Tennessee System after a year and was finally medically stable enough to survive further testing and they discovered I had Pulmonary Fibrosis caused by my asbestos exposure while in the Navy. They quickly gave me 100% Service Connected Disability and promptly delivered the back pay. All I can say is stick with it, start at the bottom and eventually you will succeed.

  3. Danny    

    So many veterans in need, so many problems, & one man trying to fix them. Although I continue to be one of Secretary McDonald’s strongest supporters, I agree with every one of you about the corruption & bureaucratic garbage that we veterans are forced to put up with at the VETERANS Administration. It is, after all, run by the gov’t. I’m glad to see he is gaining more support, but he may not be there long. He WANTS to help us, but too many people have been allowed to cruise along the cultural highway that has existed for years before he came along. WE CAN HELP! Contact your elected officials; let them know that the VETERANS in the Administration have confidence in Secretary McDonald, & would like to see him continue to serve us. Remind them that there is another election coming up, & that VETERANS will be out IN FORCE voting!

  4. Bill sutherland    

    I have been lied to and generally have a issue with useless government employees that can’t help or won’t!

  5. Ryan S.    

    I have an idea to address 2 BIG veteran problems – student loans and homelessness. My IDEA is to let veterans use the GI Bill to repay student loans (it’s for education afterall) and to pay for housing (rent, mortgage, etc.). Set a value on the GI Bill (say $3000 per month) and let the veteran apply it to loans and housing.

    I’ve written, called, posted, emailed, you name it – I’ve gotten NO traction. I called his number and emailed him. I had a call back from someone months ago, and it went nowhere. The person had no interest in solving any problems.

    My experience with the VA is that it’s totally inefficient, slow, cumbersome, and outdated. When applying for disability or the GI Bill, documents are MAILED or FAXED!!?? You cannot upload them. WTF?!?!?!? Are you kidding me?!?! I was told that mailed documents would take MONTHS to be routed and scanned and uploaded. How is that possible in 2015??? MONTHS?!?!?!?!

    Look, fix the easy problems like this. Veterans should be able to complete an online form, attach documents, and hit upload. This is 2015. What is the idea with mailing and scanning and uploading documents on the receiving end?

    Also address the huge problems that really impact veterans. Money issues and healthcare and homelessness and joblessness. If you open up the GI Bill to help pay for student loans and housing, you can fix existing problems with earmarked entitlements, fixing a lot of problems with the stroke of the pen.

    1. Huha    

      That is the stupidest idea I have read about the GI Bill, the bill is for attending not for someone who already attended….

  6. Maurice Scott    

    Sec. McDonald is a man for the veterans not a man defending all of the wrongs of his agency. He or his secretary, or one of his senior undersecretary answers veterans directly. Which probably means he won’t be there long, the culture will hide and let him take the blame for another scandal, because they don’t want to change.

    He is by far the best cabinet secretary working for the underserved not the rich and powerful. The horizon next is the destruction of medical records to serve the cultures desire to be as they were before, serve themselves not veterans , next the bva which is high paid lawyers doing as little as they can getting as much as they can while seemingly picking winners and losers.

  7. Tommy    

    Mr McDonald, something has to be done with the Dallas VA, I don’t think there is one compassionate employee there. Certainly the pharmacy, I have panic attacks going close to it. There are 7 windows and be 25 vets in line and only two of them are open. But when there are no one in line they open 5 of them, I don’t get it.

    I think they love finding something wrong and saying you need to go back to your doctor. They are horrible people working in the pharmacy. Also you fill out a letter to the director and don’t get any reply or follow up. Most of all from the doctors down to the janitor the Dallas VA are the most rude uncaring people anywhere. You can hear them talking bad about patients in the elevator or right there in the office.

    You need to do some major cleanup of these employees. They don’t care about nothing but themselves. Thank you

  8. eugene tannenbaum    

    now in Feb. no call, no responses no action, just hardly able to type tjis. where is the IG? Reading other messages seem to indicate need for early tightening up. Media may eventually zero in as did CBS 60 Minutes show once did. The disabled vet closed the program with these words “DENY, DENY, UNTIL THEY DIE”

  9. Danny    

    Ms. Kooyers, Congratulations! As with any gov’t entity, patience is a must when dealing with the VETERANS Administration. They are in the middle of trying to clean up a nation-wide mess. As you probably know, I support Secretary McDonald; he accepted the job, it is now his responsibility to clean up a mess that was created under someone else’s watch, & I believe he is working hard to do so. It is important to note that he is not hiding behind a desk; he is in the middle of the battle. If more veterans would at least give him credit for that, it might make him even more determined to accomplish the mission. He is not the “normal” Washington bureaucratic puppet; he had not been corrupted by politics, he, in my opinion, is still a brother veteran first. As I have said before, if I am wrong, he will hear it from my own mouth!

  10. Catherine Kooyers    

    Since my last post: Very impressed – after contacting Secy McDonald at the email above, not only did I get a call the next day — also just received a call from regional VA requesting a meeting. Whomever posted this originally is helping many, many veterans — THANK YOU!

  11. Catherine Kooyers    

    Thank you for posting this helpful information! Many veterans have come to me, a 45 year veteran advocate, with horrifying stories of misdiagnosis, mistreatment, improper care and worse in Michigan. So, for several months last year, dozens of veterans and I worked together to id and document issues and concerns of veterans in the Grand Rapids, MI area. We assembled a large report complete with names, dates, pictures and sent it to the Mr. McDonald and others last fall. We did not receive from V.A. one word of acknowledgment of receipt of that communication or assurance these concerns would even be looked into. So, when this blog posted the info, I emailed the address above — and was stunned to actually receive a call the very next morning!!! That was so encouraging. Now, we wait to see what is done to help our desperate vets. Will post results and let you know! But for many of these vets, time is running out and we need to work more quickly. We remain loyal to our country and believe we can make positive changes working together. . . so let’s work together and DO IT! Thank you, again, for this info.

  12. eugene tannenbaum    

    request call from a rep as my effort to outline my comments did not go thru…..e/mail is geinter@aol.com

    If my experience with recent VA partipation was duplicated by a private company, the board and stockhlders would consider drastic changes at the top. Am WW2 vet, 91+ years of age, presebtly 30% disabled. American Legion initiated filing claims. Little progress. My military records, a;png with abundant others were destroyed in a fire about 1973 in St. Louis by fire abd excessive water damage. My late wife also was a volunteer Air Force WW2 enlistee..

    I am ssure the accolades you have been receiving ae most desrving, but your staff would be enlightened if I am contacted

  13. victor m. zavala    

    I would like for you to visit the Rio Grande Valley, South Texas and have a conference with us veterans, we do have lot of problems with our 2 VA Clinics. Back in 2010 my Harlingen Texas VA refuse to refill my service connected Meds and I file a Torn Claim and it got deny all the way to Washington DC, Sad to say, VA employee and their Boss cover their [butts] for the way they treat us and serve us. I file a form with the OIG and have heard from them either, so we do have lot of problems with all Veterans organizations and health that should be helping us and meeting our needs. Hope you take what I said here seriously and do something about it NOT just fix the problems Help us veteran for what they had done to us and NOT doing their JOBs.
    Retired SFC Victor M. Zavala
    Weslaco, Texas

  14. Cletus Brown    

    Dear Mr. Secretary
    It is awesome when your door is open, When you visited the KC VA I was there and waited hopen to at lease to shake your hand but urgency came about and I Being 21/2 hours away from home I headed that way an in route home I received a phone call that my house was on fire. So Mr. Secretary I do not need to complain for the ball is in your court. and the information you received from the Indians is what you haft to act on. I am asking with out disclosing any wrong Doing for you to look at Two VA’s in Missouri the KC VA and The Columbia VA. The Director at The Columbia VA sent me a letter Thanking me for Contacting The President

    1. Danny    

      Mr. Brown, I would be interested in knowing; did you get a response from the white house?

  15. Danny    

    I am so glad this article came out. My first comment on this site was not a good one, so much in fact that when I read it, I felt compelled to apologize to the Secretary. I did so, and gave him my word that I would never disrespect him again. I don’t know if he ever saw those comments, but since then, have found his Email address & exchanged several emails with him – All non-business related. He had personally answered each of them! That is why you will see me make so many comments about him being our brother veteran. HE DOES CARE!! If you contact him, instead of just dumping problems on him, try to remember that he is a man, a real human being who deserves to be treated with respect, and deserves to have some time away from the job. He has been working his “tail end” off to help you & me, now its our turn to show support & RESPECT & HELP HIM!

    1. Jim    

      Well ….. actions speak LOUDER THAN WORDS. He may have helped SOME but he has done NOTHING to help me and I have sent over TWENTY emails and more calls to that “cell phone” number than I can count and still NOTHING. Just because he has helped you doesn’t mean he is helping EVERY veteran and guess what … EVERY VETERAN DESERVES HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! RESPECT IS EARNED NOT GIVEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      1. Danny    

        Jim (capt Jim?) As I said, Secretary McDonald has done absolutely nothing to help me personally. The help he is giving to all veterans is all I have asked for. Inundating anyone’s “in basket” does nothing more than clog thessystem. Maybe someone on his staff will see your post & numerous emails, & direct some attention towards your situation; I sincerely hope so, but I am just another disabled vet praying & hoping for the best for my brothers & sisters.
        Take care & God bless.

        1. Danny    

          BROTHERS & SISTERS I strongly advise you NOT to put your personal information on this site, nor to pass it along to anyone you “meet” on it. I made that mistake, & was harassed by the individual to the point that I had to warn him that any further problems would be reported under the appropriate Cyber Harassment laws. Please know that these problems happen, & if they do, you DO have an avenue of recourse. Just for “grins & giggles” google Cyber Harassment.

  16. Michael Hawyard    

    I would have to disagree with the comment “hundreds of Veterans have called and e-mailed Bob. Sometimes he answers, sometimes his staff answers, but more importantly the Veteran gets an answer” I can personally state from experience that this is not true. Too much non-factional PR going on by the Secretary of the VA, he needs to start espousing what is fact instead of doing his PR tour! I advocate for Veterans in a rural area and we have had numerous emails go unanswered. Also, I know of several letters that have been sent by one of Senators that were never answered as well!

    1. Janet Appling    

      Sorry Michael,I wrote and got and answer in less than 24 hours and a call from my VA clinic. My situation has been moving along a breakneck speed since I wrote. Another one of my friends wrote and got the same kind of response. As far as we are concerned it isn’t non-factual PR. I also live in a rural area where I have to travel 150 miles to get to my main clinic. There is a CBOC within 10 miles, but can only get minimal services there.

    2. David Hendrickson    

      Sorry Michael Haywood but when I emailed General Hickey back in September about my case it was on a Saturday night and Sunday morning there was an answer.
      3 weeks later after she gave my case a shove it was resolved and check in the bank.

      The fact that someone read my email between 9pm Saturday and 6am Sunday and REPLIED is an amazing feat.
      That when they fwd the email to WACO and those morons pulled my file, called me, followed up with a letter, followed it up with another letter, and decided my claim in a 3 week period ranks right up there on a miracle scale.
      Secretary McDonald may have his staff take care of a lot of this but they are getting results.
      On the FaceBook page VA is Lying (https://www.facebook.com/groups/VA.is.LYING/?fref=nf) you will find more and more stories of success from McDonald, Clancy and Hickey.

    3. Danny    

      Mr. Hayward, depending on your disability rating, you may also be eligible for social security; regardless of your age. Check it out.

  17. johnnie godbold    

    Great Job. dido’s
    finally Va is on the right track communication thank God. now the Veterans can feel proud again knowing Bod Mcdonald has your back. and the behavar VA has demistrated in the pass is the pass.

    I have a case now all I ask my regional office to do in Atlanta is to process the claim as is that seems to be a problem. in the mean time i suffer hard ship, unemployed since 2012, facing foreclosure, bankruptcy divorced and cant pay a light bill. with all the problems all soldiers have exhaust and no energy and let outside VA care waiting and hoping one day things will get better. I even filed a complaint with my congressman and the regional office told here they schedule a Disability Physical for me and did not schedule one. now that that information was found untrue, they have now taken me back to square one and schedule me for multiple examinations that has already taken place. which means my hardship now will drag on another six months this is why solider do the unthinkable because of communication. Any way i got movement.
    Thank you Bod for making the point that some one will be there to answer the phone and the God almighty EMAIL the best tool in the business and it is free at no expense to the government like USPS or fax. who use that any more.
    Again
    Thank you for your vision and efforts may God bless you and prosper you and your efforts that it may catch on like wild fire.

    1. alex robinson    

      I flle for hard ship due to they cut my va. pension off they say for overpayment on 8/2013 on 11/2003 I file for hardship, about to lose my house,all my bill due,i turn all my paperwork indecateing that I was in a bad spot. on 12/2003 they put 5.00 in my bank for 8 months .Idon’t know who is this sick person is,but may my God bless them at little rock va, veteran need help, not more sick adj.

  18. brenda hayes    

    FIX THE PROBLEMS WITH THIS SITE. CAPTCHA CODE< ….Problem since its inceptions. If you can't fix the small problems; how are you going to fix the larger problems, Mr. Secretary.

    I've tried 7 times now to post an article. WHAT"S UP!!!

    1. Danny    

      I have no problem with the captcha code. I thought it was capitalization & lower case letters, but that was changed. I don’t know what else to suggest. I wish I could help.

Comments are closed.