Secretary Bob McDonald spoke at the Brookings Institute on Monday. The question headlining the event was “Can the Department of Veterans Affairs be modernized?” McDonald’s first comment was “Absolutely, yes.”
McDonald’s message reiterated VA’s priorities and described the department’s pathway to success. He also took reminded the in-person and online audience of VA’s expansion and growth. Since McDonald took office, VA has added four million square feet of physical space, 1200 new doctors. 2300 new nurses, extended evening hours and more weekend hours.
“Not only can it be modernized—it’s already being modernized, and we’re already seeing the results,” he said.
The transformation is happening in various ways. Some of the notable improvements include:
- A mobile app allowing Veterans to schedule, reschedule, or cancel appointments on their smartphone. It is currently being field tested and is expected to be fully available later this year.
- Veterans will be able to enroll for health care online or over the phone beginning this summer.
- VA is training employees on advanced business techniques like Lean Six Sigma, reducing waste within the organization.
- Employees are invited to identify and submit ideas for best practices to be evaluated and implemented where they’re needed most.
- Automated kiosks gathering feedback from the Veterans regarding their experience.
The modernization seems to be working. This past March, VA set a new record for completed appointments for one month: 5.3 million inside VA. That’s 730,000 more appointments than in March 2014. Last fiscal year, VA completed almost 57 million appointments inside VA and over 21 million in the community, which is nearly 5 million more appointments than in the previous fiscal year.
In addition, recent surveys taken at our facilities have shown nearly 90 percent of Veterans are “satisfied or completely unsatisfied.”
“So the idea that VA can’t be fixed, or that we’re not fixing it, is just nonsense. We are fixing it. We’re just not finished yet.”