McDonald: The future of Veterans health care is essential to our national security

MyVA Transformation Update highlights progress, plans for 2016


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Last July in the MyVA Integrated Plan and overview, we laid out the focus, approach, and outcomes for MyVA. Today, we are releasing our MyVA Transformation Update that highlights our progress and our plan for the rest of calendar year 2016.

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, CSIS about our vision for the future of Veterans’ healthcare and our ongoing department-wide transformation initiative called MyVA. CSIS is an influential and non-partisan think tank in Washington, D.C.

That was an important moment, because the services VA provides to our nation’s Veterans are not often part of traditional foreign policy and national security conversations. They should be. Those VA services are essential to national security.

Why? Our men and women put their lives on the line to defend our freedom every day, and we must keep our promise to them and their families when they return home.

During his second Inaugural Address as the bloody Civil War was coming to a close, President Abraham Lincoln recognized the responsibility the nation had to care for those who have “borne the battle,” and their families and survivors. Lincoln’s charge is as important today as it was when he was commander in chief.

VA’s strategic advantage

VA is the largest integrated health care system in the United States – more than 1,200 health care facilities, from large medical centers to outpatient clinics. Over 350,000 employees—25,000 physicians, the largest employer of nurses in the country, affiliations with over 1,800 academic institutions, and more: a single electronic health record across the enterprise, a lifetime relationship with 9 million patients, psycho-social support for homeless patients, integrated mental health care, an organic pharmacy system, organic geriatric care and more.

Besides health care, VA is the Veterans’ resource for important non-medical determinants of health. These are services like career transition support, education services, vocational rehabilitation, fiduciary services, pension resources, disability compensation, home loan guaranties, insurance and others.

The potential is enormous. We owe it to our Veterans and to the American people to get this right.

VA’s transformation effort is called MyVA

We’re taking advantage of the greatest opportunity for change in the history of our department so we can deliver better outcomes for Veterans and families. Our vision is a Veterans Affairs that is the #1 customer-service agency in the federal government. We want Veterans to see us as a VA they’re proud of. That’s why we call it MyVA.

We’re focused on five MyVA strategies for the long-term and 12 breakthrough priorities for the near-term.

The five MyVA strategies are about rebuilding trust with Veterans, their families and survivors and the American people. They’re a concerted approach leveraging VA’s immense scope and scale so we can give every Veteran an exceptional experience that’s easy, consistent, and memorable.

Our five long-term strategies—our MyVA strategies – are about achieving customer-service excellence by:

  • Improving the Veteran experience
  • Improving the employee experience
  • Achieving support services excellence
  • Establishing a culture of continuous performance improvement
  • Enhancing strategic partnerships.

VA’s 12 breakthrough priorities for 2016 are designed to achieve meaningful near-term improvements and quick-wins for Veterans while propelling us toward long-term success of the MyVA Strategy. Eight of the 12 priorities are about directly improving service to Veterans. Four of the priorities represent critical enablers to reform internal systems and give employees the tools and resources they need to consistently deliver an exceptional Veteran experience.

Our eight priorities for Veterans will quickly:

  • Improve the Veteran Experience
  • Increase Access to Health Care
  • Improve Community Care
  • Deliver a Unified Veteran Experience
  • Modernize Contact Centers
  • Improve the Compensation & Pension Examination
  • Develop a Simplified Appeals Process
  • Continue to Reduce Veteran Homelessness

Our four critical enablers are about reforming internal systems, giving employees the tools and resources they need to provide great service and consistently deliver an exceptional Veteran experience. So the critical enablers are designed to:

  • Improve the employee experience
  • Staff critical positions that are vacant
  • Transform our Office of Information & Technology
  • Transform our supply chain to increase responsiveness and reduce operating costs

We’re committed to doing everything we can for Veterans, and we’re advancing on all these lines, and many others, as you’ll see.

The President’s FY2017 budget request, another tangible sign of his steadfast devotion to Veterans and his commitment to transform VA, supports these priorities into the next year.

Caring for those who have “borne the battle” remains an essential to our national security. Our services are not only incentives for young people to join the military, but they are VA’s response to the sacred commitment to those who have served, that President Lincoln described. It’s why at VA, our more than 350,000 employees -about one-third of them Veterans themselves – work to honor those lost in how we care for those Veterans who return home, in how we care for Veterans’ families and survivors.

We’re honored to play our part in that noble mission.


Editor’s note: You can view Secretary McDonald’s presentation at CSIS here.

 

 

Author

Bob McDonald

Bob McDonald was the eighth Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Comments

  1. Marty martinson    

    Ok. Let me get this straight. Director McDonald states that Disneyland doesn’t monitor their wait times and neither should the VA? You are an idiot Mr. McDonald and you should go wait in line. The unemployment line!

  2. Henry Kellogg    

    How do I contact Secretary MCDonald?
    I have been escalating for a Town Hall meeting at the Fayetteville AR VA since September 2015 to address local concerns as well as the specific issues with claims/Appeals in the Little Rock region. I have gone through the chain of command from the Patient Advocates through my local congressman and Senator.

    Please advise

    Henry

  3. Harold M.    

    I am a 100% disabled combat veteran that served and was wounded in Afghanistan. My medical care at the VA hospital in Alexandria is a joke. The majority of my care has to come from non VA providers because Alexandria does not have the speciality equipment, personal and training in order to manage my Intracathecal pain pump. Before the Choice Act took effect on1OCT15, my wait time to receive an authorization for care with a non VA provider took less than two weeks.

    When TRIWEST come online, my authorization time increased from two weeks to two months! It’s now May 2016 and my wait time for approvals have worsened yet again because my wait time increased from two months to four months. It’s unbelieveable that I have to wait four months for physical therapy. My pain pump was due to be filled on 3MAR16, however, I received my refill authorization from Triwest FOUR DAYS AFTER MY PAIN PUMP ALARM WAS TRIGGERED BECAUSE I STARTED TO RUN OUT OF MEDICATION (100% morphine).

    THE MISSION OF THE VA IS TO TAKE CARE OF VETERANS THAT WERE WOUNDED IN THE LINE OF DUTY. THE VA NOW SPENDS MORE TIME AND RESOURCES ON VETERANS THAT ARE NOT COMBAT INJURED OR HAVE SERVICE CONNECTED INJURIES. THE VA NEEDS TO TRANSFER THESE VETERANS INTO THE COMMUNITY HOSPITALS SO THE VA HOSPITALS CAN FOCUS LN THEIR CORE MISSION IS TO TAKE CARE OF THE COMBAT WOUNDED. WHAT HAPPENED?

    THE VA IS COLLAPSING UNDER ITS OWN WEIGHT.

    1. Richard w Rust    

      . It’s unbelieveable that I have to wait four months for physical therapy

      It’s now been a Year. !! an still haven’t gotten Physical Therapy
      was finally Approved but the Physical Therapist called Me an said:
      Sorry Your appointment for Physical Therapy can not be covered as VA
      didn’t send Us the Authorization code We’d need an You’d be stuck paying the Bill.

  4. naheart_2010@yahoo.com    

    Let’s get real here. The Veterans affairs always say We want to treat or we treat our veterans with respect and to take of our Veterans. This is a half truth because, sure the Veterans affair and the Veterans Medical Centers all over the country. I go to the Portland Oregon VAMC. So if they want to treat the Veterans with the respect and quality of care.

    1st They say things are going to change, yes, some things might change but those changes make things that change really make things worse and no one really knows how to operate these new protocols example (The Veterans Choice program). This is also unacceptable.

    2nd Who has the control to decide if the Veterans get a cost of living raise? Why would anyone who wants to treat us Veterans especially the Disabled Veterans this way. Why would you not allow a cost of living raise when everything continues to go up, how is this being fair in treating the Veterans this way, this is wrong and unacceptable practices which needs to be changed. Some people believe us veterans get paid a lot of money a month, well, let me tell you we don’t! If you really and truly want to treat the veterans with respect and treat them properly then take care of the Veterans . The veterans should always get a cost of living rate every year and more than just a 1 to 3% cost of living raise they should get of at least 5 %.

    3rd I have had 4 primary care physicians with in the past year now I have a 5th primary care physician who is only in the office in Salem Oregon 2 days a weeks.

    4th We apparently only have only 1 Patient Advocate for both the PVAMC and the VVAMC Vancouver VA Medical Center. This is unacceptable I was up in Portland Tuesday the 10th of May and wanted to talk to and to show her my toe which looks infected this has been going on for the last 6 years or more and the head foot Doctor in Portland said there was nothing he could do to fix it. He also told me I had planter faschitis and something that has to do with my toes. When I was referred to a outside Foot doctor through the VA and a custom shoes facility. I asked if I had these things that this head doctor said I had and he sent in a request to operate and correct the problem, after 3-4 months later came back and said they wouldn’t authorize to have it fixed. I believe it might be an ingrown toenail that’s got infected.

    5th A lot of these Problems could be addressed instead of ignoring it. If someone would grow a pair and ask for way more money for the VA in the Budget proposal every year. Let the congress and /or the house know that if the VA had more money it would be able to Fix these things like having a doctor who could be there for all 5 days a week , it’s also really unacceptable . They also need Patient Advocates at least 2 per Medical Centers. This is also unacceptable. Someone needs to take a look at female person at the Portland VAMC because I don’t think she’s doing the best for the Veterans.

  5. Steven J Gresh    

    We have all been horribly deceived to believe that the VA is on the Veterans side and will try to approve all legitimate claims. This is proven to be totally false. The V A is brilliantly engineered to fail. The name should be changed to reflect the true experience you can expect. – The 4 D- . Demand, Delay and Deny until the Veteran DIES. Then they give bonuses for saving the V A the money that should have been utilized for the benefit of the claimant who put their life on the line. You can expect them to find any way possible to deny claims. I am 100 % Viet Nam disabled and requested a walk-tub in 2011. I provided a package containing everything required (Demand).and was approved quickly The “project” was then shifted from office to office, each requesting more info (that was already in the package). They even flew contractors from out of the State to re-measure, re-evaluate and whatever (Delay) on two separate occasions, months apart. They wasted more money than the cost of the project. . This Country’s (POLITICIANS) treatment of Veterans is nothing short of CRIMINAL I have even contacted Dean Heller’s office and got the same run-around tactics there too. They are waiting for me to DIE
    I even applied for and was approved for a Home Improvement Grant which, due to the incompetence of the other departments was rescinded and I am now paying it back.
    The redundancy and incompetence is so overwhelming it can’t be by accident. FIVE YEARS AND THEY STILL CAN’T TELL ME WHEN TO EXPECT THE CAPABILITY TO BATHE WITHOUT FEARING PRALYSIS !!!! I am researching information and intend to write a book revealing the unbelievable incompetence and neglect surrounding the V A. It’s basically a revolving money machine that excludes the very individuals who it’s supposed to be helping. From their hiring practices (it takes over a year to hire a nurse at the V A. most of the good ones won’t sit around a year waiting for a call) to general medical care (months to wait for appointments) to handling claims (years to even get the first denial (there will be more if the Vet persists) to the appeals. GOD BLESS OUR VETERANS because our government has left us behind.

  6. Roy Breedlove    

    Good Afternoon Brothers a and Sisters.

    I am a 20 yr Veteran who has served 2 combat tours and I am still serving to protect this country that you have forsaken so much for. I find it abhorrent that these inadequacies are still a burden on your everyday life’s existence. There has to be a better way than just continuing to suffer in silence. It is going to take all of us “a VETERAN REVOLT” along with those that really mean the words “SUPPORT OUR TROOPS”, more than a decal affixed to the window of a car that receives better care than you do. Abraham Lincoln is turning over in his grave seeing “HIS PROMISE” to ALL who have SERVED being DISHONORED AS YOU ARE RECEIVING PATRONAGE IN LIEU OF QUALITY AND TIMELY HEALTHCARE.

    AMERICA IS IN DECLINE AND SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF ITSELF!!!!!

    Secretary Mc Donald, I implore you to SERVE my Brother and Sisters as well as you eloquently have promised and espoused to honor your commitment to ALL VETERANS WHO HAVE AND SHALL CONTINUE TO SACRIFICE FOR THIS GREAT NATION!

    RB

  7. Lance briggs    

    Mr MCDonald , respectfully ,it’s time your agency stops stalling what’s long over due for the Marines, Sailors and there families from the Camp LeJeune contaminated drinking water ! Disgraceful that the approval for compensation has dropped from 25% to now under 8% since the health care in 2012 was approved . Is your agency stalling delaying claims hoping we die or give up on our claims? Presumptive rules should be expedited and who your SME’s are and what there qualifications are to post judgements on our claims

  8. John berry    

    I am sincerly impressed at the changes in attitude of the health care personal. I know there are frustrations along the way, but for me I do see change and believe that in do time , the V.A. will improve. I would like to thank everyone involved at the Atlanta V.A. hospital for the great service I have received with my struggle with cancer. I hope all veterans get the care they deserve for serving our great country.
    John K. Berry. U.S.M.C. 1981-1987

  9. David Hall    

    Danny is right on point, I went through 14 months waiting to see a neurosurgeon and after all the wait all I saw was a nurse and was told that the Doctor reviewed my MRI and that I need another surgery (number 3) and that they no longer do surgery and referred me to the choice program which after three weeks made an appointment for mid June. BS after BS and then more BS. All they do for me is keep me taking strong addictive pain killers. Mr. McDonald does not care for us and the truth is that the VA is far far worse than when he took over!

  10. William H Nicola    

    They billed me $600 +. with no breakdown just you owe the $ Ive emailed them 4 times asking for a breakdown without response, bullshit i was promised free helthcare for life when when i signed up with the USMC in 1953
    now im 80 and live on social security $ iioo.. a month
    Sgt William H Nicola

  11. Charles Semich    

    It sounds like more like social media marketing for military enrollment securing VA funding in the long run. Adding INCENTIVE to trick high school kids, sounds like propaganda, Chairman Mao-style. Do something, don’t talk about it.
    TALKING CAUSED MY SITUATION:
    I am 37 and have dentures. I served 1 yr 10 mos in combat, recieved a 10% disability rating and no dental coverage. Tooth infection after tooth infection, they gave me antibiotics and told me to go to a dentist that I couldn’t afford. For 5 years they did this. My mother set up a GoFundme to get my teeth out after the jaw bone was infected and I was in for my once every 2 months hospital stay. Teeth are paramount to health, you can die. I read about a guy in Jersey that did!

    DENTAL 4 ALL COMBAT VETS it’s too late for my teeth and health, help other in horrible pain and nowhere to turn, please! SIGN THE PETITION TO ASK THE PRESIDENT TO BRING THIS UP!

    I included the GoFundme my mother started b/c I have nowhere else to turn. We raised half of the money and I have the top teeth out and temporary dentures relieving the pain, finally. Thanks to those who helped! I still need help, the

    VA won’t help even with dentures, with permanent ones. My pride is taking a beating but after 5 years it’s the only thing left of my family and I that hasn’t taken a beating yet. I wish it didn’t have to come to this. Thanks for listening.

    Editor’s note: Per VA social media policy, links to solicitations have been removed.

  12. Stephen Sliss Jr    

    YOU ARE RIGHT – DannyG
    I have the same problems with the VA
    The main problem is that the VA will not have VA employees who commit federal felonies under the federal racketeering regulations ( RICO ACT ) arrested on messing up veterans compensation claims. FEDERAL CRIME DOES PAY WHEN WORKING IN THE VA MISHANDLING COMPENSATION CLAIMS !!!

  13. Tom Perkins    

    Rhetoric like this with nothing actually being done that we veterans can see is exactly why we need Trump!

  14. Tom Perkins    

    With all due respect all this “pie in the sky ” stuff sounds good, but I want only one simple thing to change. FIX the system so that I can get prescription drugs on an urgent basis as needed, For example when I have had to go to a Non VA provider or ER, and need drugs NOW. Getting them NOW is impossible with the VA’s bureaucratic nightmare of procedures. You should contract this out to local non VA pharmacies,.

  15. michael whetstine    

    Hey Mr McDonald i am a disabled vet in Jax fl now homeless and no transportation i am 50 years old sleeping on people’s couches when really i should not have to ny appeal is in ST petersburg and it just needs someone’s signature and give me the money that is owed to me. They really do not give a crap about us vets the people are rude and disrespectful, i believe that no change is happening i have been dealing with the va for over 20 years since i got out in 95, i am sure you will not personally read this nor care but if you do let me know that you and your staff really have the ……… to resolve my file/case. i will check for your response and maybe someone will call me or get st pet to earn there pay. very disgustedwith this whole process the Judge in washington already did his part mike

  16. d. dahlstrom    

    Never forget the Veterans who gave all .

    1. Ron Bagnato    

      Amen brother i am on the edge myself patient advocates are worthless they let us suffer and treat us like crap i wish there was away but the VA protects itself by hiding behind each other every problem goes around in a circle and goes back where it started from.

      same thing over and over and expect different results amen see you on the other side

  17. DannyG    

    NATIONAL SECURITY?! We vets had no choice but to GET UP & GO – TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS — NOW!! That took care of national security! I had to call the Mental Health Clinic for the 4th time in 3 months, & tell them that I was getting some help TODAY, even if I had to go down there & get arrested! WOW! I had an 11a.m. appt (crisis), & see my new shrink on the 24th! That’s all it takes to get an appt! ALSO, I called abt a burning sensation in my feet & lower legs (I’m not diabetic); the next avail appt is 52 days away! FIFTY-TWO FREAKIN DAYS!
    I GIVE UP! ALL THE BULL CRAP, BIG MTGS, P.R. PHOTO OPS, THEY’RE ALL BULLSHIT!
    (Watch this be the one time foul language is immediately redacted.)
    I DO believe Secretary McDonald WANTS to help us, but he is, in my opinion, doing more to make his (should be OUR) agency look good, than actually helping the average veteran.
    BROTHERS AND SISTERS, stay strong & determined, & PLEASE don’t become another statistic! WE HAVE TO BE HERE WHEN OUR COUNTRY NEEDS US AGAIN, SOON!

    1. DannyG    

      I need to amend my above statemeny. I was seen on an “in-crisis” basis on the 11th, & in spite of all the BRAGGING abt timely appts, the next avail to see my new MH provider, another pill pusher, not a shrink, is the 24th of June. Let’s see, May 11th to June 24th – thats a bit more than the 30-day time frame the public has been hearing about!
      I know he doesn’t read these comments, but I hope someone advises Secretary McDonald on them, bcuz in spite of my recent change of heart regarding the VETERANS Health Administration, I am still an ally & supporter of our brother, Robert A. McDonald! He is OUR LAST HOPE!
      I’M DONE! I will do my best NOT to be heard on this propoganda page again, & if I am, it most likely will not be happy & cheery!
      I LOVE MY COUNTRY, & I LOVE ALL MY BROTHERS & SISTERS (even the ones that I have had differences with in these pages!) GOD BLESS AMERICA!

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