A message to VA’s workforce from Acting Secretary Robert Wilkie



I’m deeply grateful to President Trump for the opportunity to serve with you and for America’s Veterans.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the “War to end all Wars”.  One hundred years ago, my great grandfather left the comfort of teaching law at Ole Miss to join the 320th Field Artillery Regiment of the 82nd Infantry Division assembling at Camp Gordon, Georgia. Across the cantonment from his regiment was an infantry outfit whose muster roll included a reluctant scratch farmer from Pall Mall, Tennessee, by way of Buncombe County, North Carolina, by the name of Alvin York.

In another part of the country was my wife’s grandfather, who had probably never ventured beyond three or four counties in North and South Carolina, but by the time he was 18, he was marching up the Champs Elysees into the terrible battle of the Meuse Argonne.

Captain A.D. Somerville, Sergeant Alvin York and Private Onslow Bullard, ordinary Americans called upon to do extraordinary things. It is their descendants whom we are honored to serve—millions of ordinary Americans who have answered a special call for us and the world.

At my Pentagon swearing in, I was proud when the officiating officer noted that I had been born in khaki diapers. I have been privileged to see this military life from many angles—as a dependent, as the son of a gravely wounded combat soldier, as an officer in two services—the Navy and the Air Force– and as a senior leader in the Pentagon. Being with you today is the culmination of a lifetime of watching those who have borne the battle.

I do not know how long I will be privileged to serve as the acting secretary, but let me tell you about my philosophy.

Customer service is the key—but not necessarily in the way you might think. Customer service must start with each other—not talking at each other but with each other across all office barriers and across all compartments. If we don’t listen to each other we won’t be able to listen to our Veterans and their families.

We must have a bottom up organization. The energy must flow from you who are closest to those we are sworn to serve. It is from you that the ideas we carry to the Congress, the VSOs and to America’s Veterans will come.  Anyone who sits in this chair and tells you he has the answers is in the wrong business.

This is a noble calling. We have a solemn responsibility to Veterans—not just today, but in the months and years to come, to set the standard for the millions coming into our VA and for the millions who will join the ranks down the years.

That is our important and nonnegotiable mission. The president and Congress support us, and I’m honored to help lead this organization.  I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible. I value your thoughts and insights as we improve our cepartment for the challenges in the years ahead.

Thank you and God bless.

 

Author

Robert Wilkie

The Honorable Robert L. Wilkie was sworn in to serve as Secretary of Veterans Affairs on July 30, 2018.

He also served as the Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs from March 28, 2018 to May 29, 2018.

Comments

  1. Ronald J Wlliams    

    Thank you Robert,One very important procedure to change immediately in claim fillings. Start with the oldest Veterans first. all claims should be categorized by the War a Vet was in. I feel terrible that Vets from WWII have never received benefits they deserve because they didn’t know about them and waited until they became very popular to file. Many are now deceased and others are still waiing for their claims to come up, but are at the bottom of the stack. Besides if decision makers are placed catagories too, they will be experienced with that time and age.Also, in the past, I have a headache just trying to change add my new spouse on to an existing claim. It has been over a year now to do so and still I am told my request in mixed in with all the other claims waiting to be decided on. This type of situration should be taken care of immediately. It’s just updating info on an existing claim. Why in the world would it get mixed up in newly applied claims. just my thoughts. Organazation is a great skill that the VA has lacked in the past. It has been mor like helter skelter.

  2. Tim Teas    

    We all appreciate your dedication. However has the V.A. considered that a Post Vietnam Era Veteran / / Pre 9/11 Veteran might find himself or herself in an educational funding “gap”?.

    Further would a reasonable and objective person find that a 50+ year old Veteran with service related disabilities and honorably discharded is not in just as much educational to stay relevant in this technology age?

    Personally, I have not found or know of any alternative V.A. monies available for Disabled Veteran’s in this older “gap” age group. I am about to graduate with a huge amount of Student Loan Debt as I have no choice. Many of my buddies in the same siituation are being laid off and are just giving up…

    Respectfully,

  3. Alice Jennings    

    My father passed away 4 years ago. I’ve been trying since that time to get my mother’s benefits straightened out. We have called every 800# that has been given us. She has since received VA benefits, but she was due SBP premiums paid by my father. She finally received the premiums, but was promptly informed that too much was paid, could she please send over $11,000 back? Seriously, if I made an $11,000 error in my job, my resume had better be in order because I would be hitting the pavement.
    Anyway, we finally received a letter from Defense Finance and Accounting Service, from David McDermott, stating the overpayment had been withheld from retroactive pay that she was due from VA, and all was well. Or, so we thought. The next month, she was billed for $11,000 indebtedness and charged 5% interest.
    In the dozens and dozens of phone calls, assorted phone numbers, trips to the VA office, I don’t believe I have talked to the same person twice, and I have yet to talk to anyone that can help. The local congressman has been of some assistance, but even they are hitting a brick wall. Now, when we call, we get hung up on, put on hold indefinitely, and was recently advised to call the President of the United States if we want an answer.
    I would love to be able to talk to a real, live person that could give me some straight answers and be able to help my mother get this resolved. Since the $11,000 was withheld from her retroactive SSIA pay by VA to settle this overpayment, should she still send $11,000 to SBP? And, the 5% interest she is now being charged? ($95.19 a month)
    I’ve called the DVA’s Congressional Liaison at 202-461-6490, customer care at 1-800-321-1080, and any other phone # that is tossed my way. I’ve never yet been given a case#.

  4. VA worker    

    Having served 11 years in the Army, first stepping foot on our VA campus in 1984, having used this facility for my care since 1992, and having worked here for 3 years – the largest and most obvious problem is our local leadership. They refuse the culture change needed to keep the turn over rate to an un-laughable limit. Us front line providers cannot keep up with the demand of patients and the leadership harassment.

  5. Tom Grahek    

    Thank you for this message and welcome to VA! I loved your thoughts on this “bottom up organization”.

  6. WILLIAM P WOOD    

    BEEN SAID BEFORE, BUT SAME OH SAME OH

  7. TJW    

    I am living in Manila Philippines and suffering from the hands of the Foreign Medical Program . I reached out to Congressman Lamar’s office for help , but hit a dead end . The Foreign Medical Program says the calls are being recorded , but not true. The Foreign Medical Office said if I do not like the way they handle their office she said I should talk to my Congressman’s office . The woman was right they covered up just like the Foreign Medical Program Office. I did not not act like that when I fought for my country . I told my my wife that going back to the United States is the only way to survive . I am diabetic , with other serious problems . I am not out in the open as it is and this does not help. I am also legally blind . But the only place I can get help with TBI , blindness , high blood pressure , diabetes , PTSD , dental , vision and my wife’s help only in the United States. A 100 percent disability with aid in helping , is only in the United States. My advice do not travel and depend on FMP , because you will be let down.

  8. Robert B. Evans, PA-C    

    I loved this. As a long time Scouter I have tried to impress on people the importance of a “Bottom Up Organization”. The overall mission is set from above but it is the individual at the bottom who has to accomplish the mission and it is to his superior in this chain to provide the tools and authority for a successful outcome. This requires communication and co-operation in both directions but the overall goal is not how successful some arbitrary metrics is but rather, real world outcomes for the end user, the Veteran and his family. I am inspired by the sincerity of Secretary Wilkie’s message.

  9. Chung Royal Ci Ty    

    Great content. I think what the VA is doing for the veterans to help them in their lives to make more normal is great

  10. Ronald L Weyer    

    The VA organization is one of the worst put together help organizations there is.
    For 5 months now I have been trying to find out why the VA is taking money our
    of my Social Security. I have contacted all of the ones I have been to and every one
    says the same thing. You do not owe any money to us. But the Veterans administration
    in Montana has put in to have my Social Security docked for something no one will tell
    me and this is also from the Treasury. They say they just take it out if told to do it but they
    do not know who is actually asking. I am about to lose my home because of this. Montana
    says I do not owe them anything. I had gotten something from them in 2013 about travel.
    I did send them a letter telling them what happened. They sent me and email saying they
    have my letter and will get back to me. Well if this is there way of getting back to me then
    this organization should be shut down. They have my email and my phone number as they
    have never changed. But some idiot in the VA just says the heck with notification we will
    just do what we want. I would like someone to take the initiative with in the VA to create a
    place people could go to get help with these matters. I have contacted 50 people and all
    they can say is sorry we show you do not owe us anything… So I take it since the VA has
    messed up my insides and broken something I would like fixed but they cant as they don’t
    know how but they will not pay for the outside to fix the problem. Is it lawyer time…

  11. Redelia Ford    

    I am a former employee of the Department of Veteran Affairs, I was fired March 23, 2016, technically April 23, 2016 I am a Veteran and worked under the worst hostile environment I ever had in my entire 38 years of work history. I claimed Hostile environment through out the 15 months of them tormenting me in Lincoln NE and I never had help from my Union reps, or anyone in DC because they were CC’d on the emails. On March 29th I sent a package via FedEx to the White House and I have yet to received a letter stating they even opened my evidence. I am a 100% Service connected veteran and 100% on social security my VA retirement disability was denied and they said I was a disgruntled employee because my former supervisor gets to send in that paperwork to Office of personnel Management. Did you receive that paperwork instead of President Trump? I did t address it to the VA because they have FAILED ME IN EVERY WAY.

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