Secretary McDonald discusses progress, promise and challenges on Veterans health policy



The Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) International Security Program hosted an engaging discussion on Veteran’s health policy with VA Secretary Bob McDonald. During the session moderated by CSIS president and CEO John J. Hamre, McDonald discussed some of the challenges the VA has faced within the past few years, what has already been done during his time in office and his plan for the future of VA.

“We’re trying to use this crisis to take advantage of this great opportunity that we have in the history of our department, so that we can better deliver outcomes for Veterans and families,” said McDonald speaking about the 2014 access crisis.

He delved deeper into the latest updates on the MyVA transformation, including:

  • In the first 12 months after the access crisis VA completed seven million more appointments than in the prior year. Of those appointments, 2.5 million were at VA and 4.5 million were in the community.
  • Last fiscal year, VA completed nearly two million appointments more than the prior fiscal year, including 57 million appointments inside VA and over 21 million in communities.
  • From March 2015 to this past February, Veterans received 10 percent more authorizations for care in the community than the same period last year
  • Over the last 12 months, VA completed 1.6 million appointments than the year before.
  • In February 2016, VA completed over 96 percent of appointments within 30 days of the clinically indicated or preferred date.

In addition, the clinical workload is up more than 20 percent, giving more than seven million additional hours of care for Veterans. VA has also hired 18,000 medical staff over the last year and a half and has built nearly four million square feet of clinical space within the past two years.

McDonald’s vision is to make VA the number one customer service agency in the federal government. A key part of that is improving the employee experience and giving them the tools and resources they need so that they can better serve Veterans. VA is also working with the MyVA Advisory Committee, a group of business leaders, medical professionals, government executives and Veteran advocates to get feedback throughout the process.

The secretary hopes that the steps put in place by the MyVA transformation process will put VA on a path towards success.

“President Reagan gave Veterans ‘a seat at the table of our national affairs nearly three decades ago. MyVA is about keeping Veterans at the table, in control of how, when, and where they wish to be served,” he said.

Author

Melissa Heintz

– Melissa Heintz joined the VA’s Digital Media Engagement team as a public affairs specialist in October 2015. She grew up on an Army base in Japan before her family relocated to Hawaii. She holds a degree in Journalism/Mass Communications and Spanish from Seattle University. Melissa has served as a public affairs specialist with Navy Region Hawaii Fleet and Family Readiness and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. In December 2015, Melissa commissioned in the Rhode Island Air National Guard where she serves as a public affairs officer with the 143rd Airlift Wing.

Comments

  1. Carl Davis    

    Mr. Secretary;
    Being new to the entire VA system can be overwhelming if one is not patient. Thank God I have him to provide me with patience. So far I have been awarded 10% for knee problems. I pray after I submit supporting documentation for my shoulder problem I will get approved for additional benefits. I have read the many horrible stories from vets who have not been taken care of. I know that the broken system and failures from years of problems contributed to the feelings of those veterans. I keep praying that you will allow decision makers to review claims and approve them so those who served faithfully with pride, can receive treatment while they still have some dignity left.

  2. Carolyn J. Palmer    

    Why does an extremely ill Veteran have to be in the vehicle over 2 hours to get a blood and urine test when he could get one locally and have it tested and sent to the local VA clinic? Also, why is there so much disrespect shown to the Veteran when he is running out of pills and the Doctor waits to the last minute to approve them? My husband has had to wait 7 days to get his pain medication after he was out of it with my constant urging his assistant to remind the doctor to order for him to get his medication. Another medication he misunderstood how to use the medication and ran out of it and was told he had to wait 30 days to get it again. This is cruelty. I can see that the Veteran should take his medication properly, but to withhold medication is criminal.

  3. robert e. mccluskey    

    I am 80% combat related disabled, from combat service in Vietnam. Why can’t I get dental care at the VA? Please don’t tell me the obvious, which is that only 100% disabled are eligible for dental care. I want to know why I am not eligible also.

  4. Terry Dorsett    

    I have read these comments and they are all so familiar to me that I don’t have to rewrite them in my post, they get rid of one and hire another to do the same… NOTHING . Mcdonald is saying what congress and leaders that don’t care about Veterans want to hear, giving out numbers that nobody can prove. How about giving out the numbers of Claims, Appeals, Appointments that have Not been taken Care of and the number of Deaths that has happened while waiting for care or Compensation. These numbers are surely more than the Millions you are bragging about and what about the Bogus QTC Assesment Contracted Appointment we go to that are Paid to do a Negative Report so your Percentage is the least they can give. We as Veterans have seen the reports where workers at every VA Facility have done some kind of Criminal Act from falsifying documents, throwing claims in the trash and even lying about Appointments. Now Mr Mcdonald until you get off your behind and Stop blowing smoke up ours then you are just another high paid, educated Person with a job to BS people with Lies. VETERANS ARE VERY SMART AND DON’T TAKE KIND TO PEOPLE ON THEIR HIGH HORSE TAKING ADVANTAGE OF PEOPLE WHO SERVED OUR COUNTRY TO PROTECT IT !!!

  5. Douf Fuller    

    This month I had to take advantage of my VA health benefits. Initial doctor’s exam in Canandaigua, NY and surgery at the Syracuse VA. Bottom line, you have much to proud of at these facilities! Professional, caring and friendly.

  6. Harry Zabinsky    

    I have never had a problem with the medical care I receive at the VA facility in West Palm Beach, FL. The staff is competent and I do not have to wait long for appointments. I do however have a big problem with the people who review out cases for compensation. I am a 68 year old diabetic who was exposed to Agent Orange while in Vietnam in 1969. In 2014 I had my leg amputated above the knee. I was eventually examined by someone who had never before seen me and was told that the amputation was not a result of the Diabetes. I submitted an appeal where 3 doctors including the surgeon who amputated the leg at the VA Hospital said that the diabetes was the contributing cause for me having the amputation. I also had 2 other doctors who have been treating me for years submit paperwork saying that they believed that the diabetes was also a contributing factor in the amputation. I submitted a timeline showing that all my problems with the leg began after acquiring diabetes.

    What I want to know is why should it take from 2 to 5 years for someone to get around to handling this appeal. I am currently at a 70% service connected disability level. My application for individual un-employability was also rejected because the amputation “was not” a result of the Agent Orange acquired Diabetes. It is costing me approximately $1400 a month because of the individual un-employability rejection and that money is not retroactive to when I filed the claim. Whoever I speak to at the VA seems to feel that waiting 2 to 5 years is normal and acceptable. Perhaps if no bonus’s were given out to VA employee’s until after this mess was cleared up things would get things done. It costs me a lot of extra money to live with only one leg. Try climbing a ladder to replace a light bulb when in my condition. I have to pay people now to do simple things for me now. That additional money that I’m not getting would certainly come in handy. If I’m lucky, I’ll still be alive in 2 to 5 years.

  7. Kenneth    

    This guy is NOT the right guy.

  8. kevan flanagan    

    The last time I commented at this site I could not find it when I returned.. We’ll see if it posts right away.. if not its censored…

    I have similar issues with choice.. Choice is run by the same insurance provider as Tri- Care wich is usually for retired personnel. My sister has it as her husband was a Retired Officer, combat wounded veteran. She has no co-pays and $8 perscriptions, and everything else is coverd with medicare paying secondary.

    i am a non compensated Vietnam Vetran. The VA fee based sends me to choice based on Making the appointment within 30 days.. the real reason was because they were running out of money.. they told me this..The VA took 30 days for this to happen, including the time it took MY non-va care doctor and myself to convince them I had a serious problem.. then choice took another 30 days.. I had ONE followup with my private doctor. I was refused any other followup with him. Only with VA.

    At a later date the VA feebased office canceled a follow up appointment through choice, requested by VA, approved by choice, after the initial consult..??

    My medical issue was DVT (clotting) of the left internal juglar vien.. The VA will not ultra sound it to see if it is improving..
    as I am having fatigue issues.. It took over 60 days to get treated. In the meantime I was at risk for pulmonary embolism, heart attack or stroke..

    VA takes near $200 per month out of my SS check. I am below the income requirement for only having to pay for my $8 for perscriptions…. i send m sister (widowed) $300/ mo so she can stay in her home… My brother inlaw retired Major.. decorated battlefield wounded..my sister gets nothing from the VA as far as compensation or retirement.

    I am a mild hemophiliac high risk patient. All invasive medical procedures are expensive.. i am now being told that no procedures will be performed unless they are life threating..

    will these things ever change ?
    If it happens to my sister and I, it its happening to others..
    Why are these things still happening ?

    Mr. Mc Donald,
    can you change these things
    will you approve Bladder cancer as pre-sumptive as the IOM has reccommened?

  9. Aroy Crowell    

    After reading the many comments from more veterans than i can remember;I’ m extremely frightened for the”KARMA”of the V.A.

  10. linda williams    

    I am service connect with 30% rating it took my year to get that I am in desperate need of dental work which I can not afford My teeth are just falling out I have one tooth left of my upper teeth Dental care can prevent many other illnesses I have been homeless before Iam thankful for the help I have recieved so but we really need to extend health care and take care of dental issues

  11. Gary D. Spooner    

    Mr. McDonald thus far many of the change you have made have been positive with respects to management. The people that the veteran deals with are not at that level. If you really want to truly help the veterans start at the veterans level and work your way to the top. Many people are just now finding out what the veterans have known for years, the VA centers have too many excuse makers and no resolutions to the problems. The veteran doesn’t talk to those people at the top. We talk to people who are there to make a pay check or that have been knocked down so many times by those above them that they no longer care either. I have been using the VA since the early 90’s and have been to many around the country, some were well run but most were very poorly run and employed staff that could care less about the veterans. As a veteran my main chain for complaints is the patient advocate and most of them only make excuses why or just sweep the problems under the rug so the director never heard about it. Some directors have open door polices but guess who you go through to get to see them, you guessed it the advocate in most cases so they want to know what you want to see him/her about and you never get seen. The Choice program is just as the lady described above, no trained personnel trying to handle appointments or schedule things they don’t have a clue about. Or a VA that they have to send paper work to for approval like surgeries and such, that sits on the paper work for a month or more. The people answering the phones are as she said above heavy accents or lost in space. The Choice program no real help to veterans, example my wife a 10% service connected veteran went to an appointment authorized by the Tri West then they refused to pay the bill and said it was not for a service connected disability so they weren’t paying and they had to bill our insurance company. They did and then sent us a bill for a copay. If we go to the VA E R then we have no copay and if we combine her visit with mine we get travel pay to cover some of the expense. So she no longer uses an entitlement because it is flawed and even broker than the VA system is. Mr McDonald if you want the Choice to work then train or use trained personnel to run it and set up a training program that will allow the people to at least have an idea what the veterans are talking about. You should also use people that do not have heavy accents and a working knowledge of the VA system. Supervisors of those people should be much more knowledgeable of the VA system and at least a working knowledge of the Tri West. CBOC’S though much better as far as knowledge of VA still fall far short as an alternative for veterans. Example of this is I get to see my primary care doctor once every 6 months any other time I get to here the same old thing I’ll put a note in to you physician. They do just that but you never know if he/she got it, read it or acted on it. You never get test results, X-Ray, MRI, CAT scan or test results back or I should say at my present VA ficality I do not and if it is one done through the Choice Program it is left up to you to contact the testing facility or make another appointment through them with your local primary care physician. There are many other problems we as Veterans face and each VA is unique or 5 that have had the of dealt with are. The one that I delt with the most went through several directors before it got one that made changes to help the veterans and as such the hospital staff. Attitudes of patients, nurses and doctors changed drastically and though some of the treatments didn’t change the environment did for the better. Long story short Mr. McDonald you should look at the VA through the veterans eyes instead of the eyes of a manager if you truly want to make a difference for the veteran as well as the Veterans Administration. The bottom line for the Choice Program is its a good idea but the wrong company implementing it.

  12. Jeffrey L. Worthen, US Air Force, Retired, Desert Stormer    

    So like, the VA Hospital just called me a second time, the first being 10 March 2016 and then today at 0940. A lady told me the following statement: This is (whoever) from the surgical team in the VA Office and Dr. R wants to get you scheduled in the next couple days for surgery. I said “Huh?” I asked what the so called doctor wanted to do and she said he was going to fuse my ankle to my foot and leg bones which means I would not have any movement of my foot at all. I paid money out of my pocket to see a “Real Doctor” at a “Real Hospital” and that doctor said I just needed the huge chunk of bone, that I Broke from the disk like bone above your main foot, to be reconstructed!” I told her I was not refusing to have surgery done for the record. However, I was refusing an idiot doctor to cut on my and I would not have anyone in the VA do surgery on me “Period!” The VA is now starting to be concerned because they know that I am planning a presentation of “Malpractice” from the Boise VA and many VA Hospitals across the nation. My evidence is quite clear and direct and no matter what, the VA can not dispute what I have to present. Oh, and BTW! I am flagged because a Gomer Pyle (x6) admin clerk called the Boise VA Kindergarten Cops and told them that I had mentioned that I had called a doctor a “Moronic Idiot”. They called me and said I was be respectful to all personnel. I told the cop that he has to remember that I am the veteran and the VA works for me and that they need to show me respect!!!!! I hate talking about the Boise VA. I feel my blood boiling when I do and currently it is!!! So I told the cop “Well, you have flagged me for calling someone and idiot because they are, so I guess I can anyone I feel an idiot and you can not do anything else about it”. I hug up the phone before he could respond!!!! Welcome to the Boise VA medical veteran’s killing facility! Remember the article attached here that I wrote and it went world-wide? I am working on a video to post and maybe will hit the news. “IDIOTS!!!!”

    Copy and paste this link, which has been shared World-Wide, to open and let the new Secretary review. I would ask that he personally reply and not just someone for him. There is no exception to this rule. I am the veteran and he is responsible to ensure that I am taken care of which is not happening. I will be waiting for a reply directly from him and him only!!!! The following link will describe more in detail in a shorter version. (Dated 6 May 2016) This is being completely copied for legal purposes.

    http://theveteranssite.greatergood.com/clickToGive/vet/story/the-veterans-administration-medical-system-boise-idaho361#VAATuicVPczvMh7S.01

  13. Anthony C Smoth    

    I initially filed for my VA Disability in 2007. The VA has denied my application for disability, now its 3rd time and I’m currently working on a “Notice of Disagreement”. It seems I have been treated unfairly as a 20 plus year veteran. My veteran time in the Air Force has taken me thru the Vietnam era and the Desert Storm Era. My disabilities include ankles, knees, back and left ear. The VA has ignored my ailments during my 20 plus career documented in my Military Health Records. The Texas Veteran Commission is doing a good job representing me, however, we still keep getting the “run around from the VA. I’m not asking for much from the VA except to approve what I deserve – my VA disability rating. I’ve been fighting since 2007. What an embarrassment to me as a veteran of 20 plus years.

  14. Timothy Stiklius    

    To VA, I put in a claim of compensation Bach in 2014 that wasn’t addressed or attended too. I currently live in Australia. I currently have major health issues. I’m currently being assisted by my US Consulate here in Auatralia. I hope and pray my claim will be looked into.

  15. Robert Xavier Betancourt Junior    

    I have been trying to get this project started for four years despite the political morass and the medical marijuana growing on the Torres Martinez reservation. It would nice if there were some wind powered EV charging Stations with I hope a VETERAN BUSINESS (BOOTS to Business) with veteran who live within 50 miles of the site. Local people doing local projects trained to be productive members of society after serving. This needs to be with all veterans not excluding ten per cent disabled veterans who are shut out of this opportunity.

    Back to repairing my mother’s computer age 70. She said that she can not find it. But Iam excluded from training because I am ten Per cent disabled.

  16. Stanley Lester    

    In Victorville Ca. VA clinic they have a new doctor. It will be 3 months before I can get an appointment to discuss my issues. In the meantime I will continue to suffer my symptoms. Here we go again.

  17. DougFoster    

    I’m a Vietnam Blue Water Navy Veteran. When will Bob follow IOM recommendations to place us back under the legalities of the Agent Orange Act of 1991. I suffer from two of the several diseases specified in the Act but receive no compensation because Agent Orange could not possibly travel out to sea. NASA and National Geographic have proven that dust and sand from the Sahara Desert has been traveling 5,000 miles to the Amazon River annually. Don’t worry too much Bob. We’ll all be dead soon.

  18. Isabel Papp    

    I was granted my Veteran’s)Choice to see a Spine/ Pain Specialist by VAHC that was 7 minutes from my house. The Doctor was an exceptional provider-treating me with HONOR, RESPECT AND DIGNITY!! My first visit he thanked me for Service to my Country! After examining my records and exam (which was very thorough) he proceeded to detail a plan that NO OTHER VAHC DOCTOR had ever recommended, and was aghast that VAHC would not continue to treat with pain medication. (which VA is now doing to thousands of Veterans across the nation due to their Media Exposure of being the Number One supplier of pain medications) -and he recommended a patient-Doctor agreement pain treatment procedure Plan. After 3 visits and 2 days prior to procedure VAHC denied any further treatments with Veterans Choice! VAHC is now stating, 1st- they want me to travel the 40 mile distance for an initial consultation, use a Public Rapid Transportation System – which entails 2 transfers, and is over 2 hours drive one way for me (which I suffer from PTSD which has increased secondary to a recent verbal sexual assault at Pain Management Class at the VAMC) 2nd- which involves Excessive Travel Burden, and 3rd- disrupts the Continuity of Care; which I have already established in my Community.D I have contacted Director of VA Medical Director of Palo Alto, CA. I have written my Congressman. Nothing has changed.
    These are New Guidelines VA Veteran’s Choice Program outlined by Honorable David J. Shulkin to allow Veterans to obtain medical care closer to their homes, streamline wait times, become visible that the Community is helping Veterans and VA Palo Alto is doing everything but this.
    2 days prior to my Procedure I was notified that my Veteran Choice was denied and it was Noted “NO PAIN TREATMENT WOULD BE ADMINISTERED OUTSIDE OF VA”.
    isabel_94588@yahoo.com

  19. James P Arruda    

    What,s going on with the contaminated water issue at Camp Lejuene? I’m sure the VA is going to try and Denie many of us who was in the USMC following Boot camp training at Parris Island ,and use that as an excuse that 40 or 50 days wasn’t long enough to be effectived Or that like myself,and my Lymphoma Cancer wasn’t present, till years later. Or using the excuse that being obese and smoking caused this. News Flash, I never seen one Marine leave Boot Camp obese, or smoking our ass off. That’s why we get pissed off the way you treat us,find a excuse to Denie as many disability claims as possible, and hope we DIE before you have to compensate any of us.

  20. Carl D. Jantz    

    I’ve had good experiences with the Reno, NV VA, but find it hard to communicate with staff from home. Why not publish a list of staff email addresses?

  21. Keith L Rodman    

    I have had degenerate arthritis for 23 years it has effected my body in the knees, shoulders, feet,elbows back, hips, neck, and hands. I have applied for a increase 4 times and was denied each time. This time I have talked to my congressman and now I am being treated, but that does change the fact that any day now I won’t be able to work due to my pain. I have attain lawyers this time to handle my case, but va got thousands of lawyers who work for them. If this doesn’t work this time I have to go to the senate and then to the President to get this handle. I lived in Georgia. I have to travel 38 miles one way to get to the Atlanta va center. I applied for travel pay and got I t denied by Va. They tell my because I am not 30% or higher I am not qualified to receive travel pay, this is unfair and discrimating against all soldiers with 20% or less. They need to treat every fair and the same. I have argued with travel about this numerous time with no results. I feel that there are personnel out there that need to be fired.

  22. Arline Love    

    It is fine that something is supposedly being done about the appointment system but something needs to be done about the care provided once the VA starts providing “care”. The problem with clinic visits is the reliance the provider puts in the electronic record rather than talk with the patient. This may be fine if the record is accurate but terrible if it is not. Since each succeeding provider goes to the record the mistakes and misinformation just gets compounded until it is a fairy tale. The next problem is, if one is unfortunate enough to be hospitalized, the care is essentially either very poor or non-existent. A recent experience with hospitalization in a VA facility was horrendous. I wrote a letter to the Director outlining the problems, the most egregious of which as I pointed out, was the inaccuracy of the medical record. He wrote back and said he consulted the record and my complaints did not have merit. I am a 100% service-connected veteran and just received a request for the VA to bill Tricare and noting I would be responsible for co-payments and deductibles. One has to wonder if the problems go considerably deeper than appointments but since that got publicity, it is apparently the only one recognized by the VA.

  23. Karen Needles    

    When my husband got out of ICU at the VA hospital in D.C, I was told he would have to go to a nursing facility because the nurses on the regular floor could not take care of a trachea. The facility that worked with VA ended up being the facility from hell! The bedsore he got in the VA hospital progressed to a stage 4 with infection bedsore, and while I went to VA twice to talk about this, as well as the medical negligence which was happening, they would not allow him to come back to the VA hospital. So I had to remove him from the facility, and put him in Medstar, where they had to debride the bedsore, which resulted in a 5 x 3 x 3 inches. When he was ready to come home, but needed an IV for the antibiotic, VA refused to pay for the inhome care. VA told me that because I didn’t get their approval to remove him from the nursing home and put him in Medstar, they weren’t responsible for the care he received at Medstar. If I had kept him at the nursing facility, he would have died.
    Please tell me again that you care!

  24. William    

    That is alot of appointments. Now lets worry and fix the quality of the staff that are suppose to be providing care.

    Fugures dont lie but sometimes those who figure do lie. Never trust the numbers by the crooks in the VA

  25. Bobbystevens    

    Dear,Secretary way to go,it’s tough,but you are to.thanks for hanging in there for us.regards bobby

    1. rik    

      i agree with u opinion bobby.

  26. Albert Michael Anderer    

    Excellent idea to use employees’ ideas. Wonder why it took so long.
    Here’s another idea: make it easy for veterans to make suggestions. I recently had an experience with the Choice program which showed a big gap in taking care of vets. There is no method for vets to make suggestions or bring up problems to those who can do something about them.
    Replies to this email from the VA are not read. The only communication available is to adjust subscriber preferences.
    I recently got to the Director of the PHX VA Through a vet program sponsored by Rep Matt Salmon and found her quite receptive. I will be in contact with her via email to point out my problem with the Choice program, but found it frustrating trying to find a way to communicate.

    Al Anderer
    al_anderer@cox.net

  27. william r pomeroy    

    What are you doing to decrease waiting times on appeals/NOD’s? My 2011 claims were denied in 2012 and appeal filed in May of 2013, yet I’m still awaiting a decision from the Regional Office in New Orleans. So it is now 5 years since I filed those claims and still no resolution. My VSO is very confident that my appeals will be approved due to the factual errors and use of the wrong protocols in two of the claims. I can’t even get an answer on when they expect to start working on my appeal, but don’t you think 5 years is long enough? The entire process has generated nothing but stress and anger due to the VA’s inability to service the claims of veterans. The sooner this over, the better. It has been exacerbating the health conditions I already have and contributed to new health issues due the VA’s shortcomings.

  28. Jerry & Diane Thomas    

    My husband receives most of his care from the VA clinic in Jefferson City, MO, and has had wonderful experiences there, both with his primary care doctor and the audiology department. Last year, he was authorized to seek treatment for his allergies with an ENT not in the VA network, Dr. Wes Stricker of Jefferson City. His primary care doctor sent the request for treatment to the VA Hospital in Columbia and they quickly arranged an appointment with Dr. Stricker. He was tested and begun on immunotherapy. According to the authorization letter we received from the VA, he was authorized to receive that treatment for the period 5/23/15 to 5/23/16, and he was told to get another referral from his primary care physician towards the end of that period. Dr. Thebe sent the referral promptly and we were contacted by a nice gentleman with the VA in Columbia, Missouri, to advise that we would be receiving a phone call from Tri-West, the company now overseeing the non-VA treatment for veterans. We did get a call from Tri-West, but the lady had such an accent and talked so fast that my husband, who is hard of hearing, could not communicate with her. He authorized them to speak with me on his behalf. We got his “preferences” set up after much miscommunication, and the lady then informed me that my husband’s treatment was authorized through October of 2016, contrary to what the letter from the VA said. She could not tell me why the date was different and didn’t know how or if the doctor’s office would be notified of this new date. She said we would be receiving another call to set up his appointment with the doctor. I tried to explain to her that he did not need an appointment — he was at the stage in his treatment where he simply goes in for allergy shots every two weeks and did not need an appointment for that. She continued to insist that he would have to have an appointment and that she couldn’t let the doctor’s office know of the new dates for treatment. I finally asked to speak with her supervisor, who gave the same story. We finally just gave in, said fine, and ended the call.

    We got another call from Tri-West a day or two later to set up an appointment. I explained to this lady that he did not need an appointment to get his shots and that we just wanted to be sure the doctor’s office knew that they were authorized to treat him through October. She said that made sense and she would make a note to that effect in the file and see that the authorization with the new treatment dates was faxed to the doctor. She was very pleasant and very efficient.

    A day or two after that, we got a THIRD call from Tri-West to set up an appointment. We went through the same story but this lady again insisted that he HAD to have an appointment with the doctor. After much discussion, she agreed that they would contact the doctor’s office to see if he needed an appointment and go from there.

    When my husband got his shot this week, the nurse told him that Tri-West had indeed contacted them and that, after much discussion, they were able to FINALLY convince Tri-West that no appointment was needed. After that, the doctor’s office did receive an acknowledgement of the new treatment dates.

    If the purpose in engaging Tri-West to oversee the non-VA treatment was to make it better, it certainly hasn’t made things any smoother or easier. If you have any questions or would like to talk to us further, we can be contacted by email as shown below, or by phone . Jerry & Diane Thomas

  29. Kay Grosskopf    

    More veterans could be served in the Green Bay area if the outpatient hospital there was working at full capacity. After 4 years the surgical center is about 30% in use according to Fox 11 news. Matter of fact the director of surgery is leaving – probably because he wants to use his skills.

  30. Stephen Sliss Jr    

    Dear Mr Robert McDonald,
    Until the VA Claims problems are fixed with the arrests of VA Claims Processing Personnel for committing Federal Felonies in wrongfully handling VA Claims Decisions many Veterans will never believe ( including me ) that the VA wants to really help veterans. Many U.S. people and U.S. Federal Judges believe the same.
    SO WHEN WILL THE VA CLEAN IT UP ??
    Sincerely,

  31. John Greer - Vietnam Vet    

    Dear Secretary McDonald,
    While you are patting yourself on the back, you might consider that there are thousands
    ( probably more ) non-combat veterans desperately in need of dental care for such items
    as root canals, that they cannot afford… and the VA DOES NOT PROVIDE.

    Vietnam Vet
    John Greer

    1. Dennis Lurvey    

      they have great dental care for vets 100% disabled combat or not, vets in vocational rehab, vets with less than 100% in some cases. They have rebuilt my teeth including restorations.

    2. Robert E. Feffer    

      Yes, the Northport VA has a dental facility, but you need to be 100% disabled to use it. Why can they expand on it and let vets pay a much lesser amount then they would using private dentists? This could be based on the vets annual income. Certainly many are in more need than others and indeed they should pay less.

      Glasses at the VA is another thing I’d like to see changed. I think the exam I got in Northport was the best ever, and getting my pair of glasses for free was most welcome. However, why are we not allowed to order sunglasses, and or those ones that turn into sun glasses, or slim lens if you have thick glasses, not for free mind you, but how about at cost or a bit more? Charging enough to offset the cost of adding additional personnel to handle the paper work.

      I feel the care I get is the best and if we have to wait a long time to see a specialist it is only because there are not enough doctors at the facility. You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to figure that out. For those stories about vets who die because they could not get to see a doctor I don’t understand it. We are told if it’s an urgent matter go to any hospitals emergency room. I assume that the VA picks up the bill? I could be wrong!

  32. Bruce Warner    

    The VA needs to go a step further. The range to access a VA facility sounds reasonable, UNLESS that facility is like the Washington, DC VA Hospital. My first appointment there took 2 1/2 hours to travel 35 miles. From where I live it is either completely around the district to come in from the far side or straight through. If there is a Metro failure, it’s closer to 5 hours. While there are alternative facilities for routine doctor visits and audiology screenings, the services at the clinic are understandably greatly reduced even though they are physically located inside a military hospital. The bottom line is that while the locations inside major cities were preferred in the past, many veterans have make the decision to live outside the cities due to lower costs of living. The major city based facilities are becoming less and less accessible.

    1. Robert ballschmiede    

      Try calling or using the choice program.make sure your phone has a new battery it is terrible.

  33. Dennis Lurvey    

    the VA also has a benefits section that he doesn’t talk about. they make bad decisions (I’ve had 3 reversed), give your appeals to ppl who have no power to change them, and when you appeal that it takes 6+ years.

    “improving the employee experience”? they already let them commit fraud, take 100’s of 1000’s of VA money without being fired (they claim those poor people just made a “mistake” and it won’t happen again), and receive bonuses for work they should be doing as an employee in the first place. They still can’t fire people.

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