On Wednesday Nov. 29, as part of VA’s Veterans and Military Families Month, VA secretary Dr. David Shulkin and deputy secretary Thomas Bowman spoke to more than 200 attendees at the White House Veterans Affairs Conference for state, local and tribal leaders.
The conference, organized by the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, provided an opportunity to build relationships between the administration, state, local, and tribal leaders who are leading efforts to better serve Veterans. Attendees included state directors of Veterans affairs, county Veterans leaders, tribal government officials, directors of state Veterans homes, state legislators who serve on Veterans affairs committees, and workforce leaders who assist in helping Veterans find employment after they leave military service.
Shulkin addressed the group, detailing his five priorities including greater choice for Veterans, modernizing VA’s systems, focusing VA’s resources, improving timeliness of care and suicide prevention. He also discussed some of the challenges that VA faces and what has been done to address those challenges during his first year as secretary. Following his remarks, Shulkin joined Bowman on stage for an open discussion where attendees provided feedback based on their experiences with VA in their respective communities.
“The most exciting aspect about this conference was those that meet and support our veterans daily were invited to this conference. This is the first time the White House has ever placed key state and local leaders in a single room together to work hard issues facing Veterans across the nation,” said Verdie Bowen, president of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs and director of the Alaska Office of Veterans Affairs. “This conference is very reflective of the exciting changes ahead for our Veterans.”
In addition to Shulkin, guests heard from U.S. Department of Labor secretary Alex Acosta, Health and Human Services acting secretary Eric Hargan, senior White House staff, and were treated to a special appearance from Vice President Mike Pence.
About the author: Christopher Syrek is VA’s executive director of state and local government affairs.