Last week I, along with others, briefed Robert McDonald, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, on recruitment marketing for Veterans Health Administration. It was a great opportunity and one I will likely never have again. I have served in my position promoting VAcareers.va.gov for six years and this was the first time I had ever meet a SECVA. He is the third Secretary since I have worked at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
I have heard many people, employees, and Veterans ask, what makes this guy different? I am not sure that I can address that question for everyone, but I can give my perspective. He is the first SECVA who has focused on recruiting by using his platform to promote the need to hire quality staff. He is in the news almost daily keeping stakeholders informed of progress, updates and needs for improvements. He is relaying the stories he hears from Veterans and employees nationwide – first hand and unfiltered. And, he has repeatedly apologized on behalf of VA to all Veterans.
For me, it is meaningful when the CEO admits that improvements are needed and that Veterans have lost trust in VA, and we have to work hard to earn it back. I know it will take time, but I am pleased to see a humble man leading the way. The first thing he said when we were about to present him with recruitment marketing concepts was, “I apologize upfront that you folks have to brief someone who grew up earning a living doing marketing.” Being able to put himself into our shoes lets me know that not only is he a Veteran, he has placed himself in every Veteran’s shoes to find the areas for improvement and act on them.
Inside VA, there is a buzz of iCARE, re-commitment and recruitment of quality staff at every level. Outside VA, there is still a lot of hurt and anger. I feel it is time for every VA employee to ensure that we are focused on serving the Veteran, first, last and always. I also feel that is time that we Veterans begin to heal and allow VA to improve and start earning trust back.
Whether you are an employee, a Veteran or both, if that trust is questioned, report it to a Patient Advocate or to a manager using the 3P’s- Polite, Professional, Persistent. Together we make a difference.
To be a part of serving our Veterans, apply today at VAcareers.va.gov.