Modernizing VA? “Absolutely, yes” says VA Secretary



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.”

 

Author

Timothy Lawson

Timothy Lawson has been a member of VA’s Digital Media Engagement team since April 2016 and is the host of VA’s official podcast, Borne the Battle. He graduated from American University’s School of Communications in 2016 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. Tim is a Marine Corps Veteran having served as a Marine Security Guard posted at embassies in Algeria, Russia, and Peru.

Comments

  1. Dennis Burlingham    

    With some much lying and corruption in government, it is hard to truely believe the figures they put out. It is a known fact that VAMC’s across the country have manipulated data. I know personally that the Health Net Veteran Choice program is NOT well run. Seems to commit one blunder after another. Another personal experience at VA Ann Arbor shows that some department leadership continues to allow bad appointment management. The VA has let me down when I had to go to the local ER.
    I have also experienced many good doctors and nurses in the VA program.

  2. John Wood    

    I am a combat disabled Vietnam veteran and have used the VA as my primary healthcare since 1972, and believe me, throughout the decades, I have been very vocal about the problems with the VA, and took it all the way to the VA Secretary’s D.C. office to win my decades old appeals at the Board of Veterans Appeals in D.C. Having said that – not all is bad with VA healthcare. Sure there is an doctor and nurse shortage, which translates to waiting for appointments, too long in many cases. That is just the world we live in no matter where you get your healthcare, and the VA has always been a training ground for those just starting out in the medical field until they move on to the private medical industry. Permanent staff of VA doctors and nurses vary in quality, competence, and most of all attitude and willingness to do the very hard work of trying to do the incredibly hard job of seeing all those vets that have no other healthcare options they can afford. Having said that, I told my wife to put on my 65th birthday cake, “Hello Medicare – Goodbye VA”. But I am still having long wait periods to get private providers with Medicare too. I urge all vets to get a a My HealthVet premium account, use the secure messaging to speak directly to your primary care provider’s nurse, and that has worked best with me in recent years to get referrals. My primary care provider’s nurse looks at it every day. They are all in patient overload, and the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but remember you catch more flies with sugar instead of vinegar. Remember also that unlike a private doctor, a VA doctor makes the same pay whether they see 2 or 100 patients a day, so be someone that they don’t have to argue with, and smile and say thank you. I too was promised free healthcare for life, but blame Congress for giving more and more tax breaks to millionaires, billionaires and large corporations while cutting funding to the VA and other programs for needy veterans. VA has only been in damage control for 2 years now, so this ship cant be turned around on a dime, so give Secretary McDonald a break and a chance. Secretary Shinseki was a great VA Secretary, did more than any VA Secretary I have seen in my lifetime to increase the ease in applying, as well as the number of service connected disabilities for vets. He was just a scapegoat and fall guy for political reasons for problems that been present with the VA since I started using the VA in 1972. Shinseki was a soldier’s soldier, and a armored cavalry troop commander in Vietnam at the rank of Army Captain. He did not sit in the rear, with the beer, and the gear like most of the 3rd Squadron,5th Cavalry troop commanders did, but went with his troopers to the battlefield and lead from the front, and got 2 purple hearts for doing so! What you better fear is the VA Secretary we will get if a draft-dodger is elected president! Welcome Home brothers and sisters.

    1. John Wood    

      It needs to said that the VA Medical facility where I am presently enjoying a great primary care team is the Eureka California VA Clinic, part of the San Francisco VA Medical Center, operating to serve the many, many vets in these remote areas of far Northern California. In my case I still have to travel 85 miles to the Eureka VA Clinic, but that is better than 350 miles to San Francisco. This is a remote area and MY primary care team in Eureka has bent over backwards to find outside care by private non-VA providers for things they can not do to save me the long trips to San Francisco. u

  3. John D Mathis    

    Suggest a visit to VA Thomas Creek in Amarillo, TX if you want to see chaos in progress. TEN years working on this OLD facility has not finished yet. Complete chaos. Three years waiting on Cancer specialist, denied, and it appears it is NOT going to get any better. Filed complaint with Vet Service officer and it got “lost”. Who can we trust? Doctors bury their mistakes, and a loyal crew are not forth coming with facts that indicate liability. SAD, but that is just the way it is.

    1. James Tobleck    

      Just like the VA ,can’t even run this right .worthless overpaid beauracracts.

  4. James Tobleck    

    Bob , just once in 40 years would a director read the file the vet provides. Your selective wording that only VBA uses not civilIan doctors has cost me homes, wifes, and nearly my son .The appeals process that has to start over symantics goes on for years, only to be told the Dr.reports can not be used now that they are old ! Find new doctor, submit report, non medical VBA rules sgainst. I have bone on bone , constant pain. Bob , just who do I see? The worthless Director Skuppion in Battle Creek? I have 3 dental bills that 5 of your champions of choice can’t even return phone calls. I’ve lostmy dentis t due to VA not paying him. Now since October your Skuppion and staff have totally failed .me. I got a call in January from Detroit VA nurse trying to satisfy 30 day rule for complete knee . I told her I’m requesting Mercy Hospital 5.2 miles from my home. Zero , nothing, so much for choice. Skuppion replaces My Doctor, not a card, phone no consideration that I’d like to know what the hell going on. Suddenly I get a call I have to take a drug pee test ordered by some Skuppion flunky Dr. Interesting, I haven’t even met the person . 40 years of excuses, pain, homelessness, divorces, swollen leg

    .

  5. Douglas aka Douglass Hugo Adamson    

    Looks like real progress and more electric and alive than big city school systems by comparison.

  6. William Sartelle    

    I don’t see theimprovementsyet. I waited several years for an appointment /with promises of getting orthopedic care only to find out that for 4 years I was waiting for an orthopedic Dr that didn’t exist. Finally in early 2015 Muskogee VA hired an orthopedic DR..ot that is when I got to
    see one after calling a local TV trouble shooters station. It still took 3 months after initial contact. Since then nothing is improved 3 month wait times for outsourced care – refeeralsingnored. It seems to be from carless processing of paper work or computer notes,with no follow up. Also Drs that don’t care when told there is no action on referralsI am told that he saw no referrals only to see them when I downloaded records from My Healthe vet. Its incompetent BS !

  7. Michael Satterthwaite    

    For whatever reason I cannot log in to my Healthvet account to check on prescriptions and re-order those that I want.When the PTSD issue was most pronounced I made attempts to volunteer my services for the benefit of those struggling with the problem, and was not even given the courtesy of a response. I have a Psy.D and over 25 years working with chemically dependent individuals as well as those with mental health issues. In my estimation the system is still working in the dark ages when individuals, such as myself,who are willing to help, are not even given the courtesy of a response.

  8. james clark ferrier    

    Older draftes from the 60’s and 70’s have to pay pay copay and it is not right because if we had money we would be at a different hospital to begin with VA is a poor mans place,
    It is very good treatment but I am poor,I make under $17,000 a year what do you make—–so why do I pay copay.
    Start at the bottom and work up not top down–

    OK BOB

  9. james clark ferrier    

    To mr secretary quit spending money on useless buildings and work on teeth and take away copay—

  10. Michael T Newell    

    It would probably only cost a $1000 to get WiFi in the Dallas VA Hospital but that hasn’t happened, except in the lobby where Congressmen visit. Why not just stop blowing smoke up our rasses?

  11. Mitch Cannon    

    The VA’s version of modernizing includes sub-par electronic systems that magically lose millions of service and disability records. Then punish the veteran for it.

    1. james clark ferrier    

      Quit modernizing and take away copay and give back dentalllll

  12. Stephen Gorecki    

    The VA needs to honor the dental promises made to older vets who enlisted years ago, but stripped by Reagan and Bush. All I see are the continuing lies to save money, but not promises.

    1. James Gregory Coffman    

      What was the original deal?

      1. james clark ferrier    

        Medical for life—I know HE screamed it at me —–and then called me a s-head—ha ha ha

    2. james clark ferrier    

      YES I agree,all medical was promised for life in 1970–what happened–
      What is up with copayyyyyyyyyyy

    3. james clark ferrier    

      What about the people who were drafted–and now no dental and COPAY

Comments are closed.