A message to VA’s workforce from Secretary Wilkie



Hello, I’m Robert Wilkie and it is an overwhelming honor to serve along side you as Secretary.

There are two emotions today.

The first emotion is feeling very humbled. I was humbled by the honor of being a candidate for this job; I was even more humbled by the call to be your next Secretary.

The second dominant emotion is that of being very, very excited—thrilled!  Thrilled to be part of this department.

I’m deeply grateful to President Trump for the opportunity to serve for him and for America’s Veterans.  I am also grateful to the United States Senate for their vote of confidence.

First off, I want to thank you, the staff of the VA.  Whether you are at a health care facility, on the Benefits team, serving at our cemeteries, or here as part of our staff at the headquarters. You may not hear enough, but I want you to hear it from me. Thank you for your tireless work and devotion to our Veterans… and thank you for all you do to help them and their families everyday.

When President Herbert Hoover signed the executive order in 1930 creating the Veterans Administration, he consolidated Veterans programs and created a new independent administration “for the relief of veterans.”  Eighty eight years later, that is still our charge.

Serving our Veterans is a noble calling.  We have a solemn responsibility to our 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.

During my confirmation hearing, and in previous messages to you while serving as the Acting Secretary, I shared with you my philosophy – customer service.

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…. and we won’t be able to provide the world class customer service they deserve.

Next, 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 or she has the answers is in the wrong business.

I want to share a story with you from President Eisenhower.

Five months after his inauguration, about forty Korean War Veterans climbed aboard the presidential yacht Williamsburg—many were missing limbs, some were horribly disfigured.  When Ike arrived at the pier, the Secret Service began running up the plank to separate the President from his troops.  Before they reached the deck, Eisenhower yelled “Halt!  I know these men.”  The agents retreated, and the soldiers gathered around the President.

He said there was nothing the country could do for them that could compensate for what they had given to America.  He then addressed them at attention, and those who could stand did, and said you will never put away your uniform, you are always on duty.  “You must get well, to remind your countrymen everyday that freedom is never free.”

This is our VA.  We are here to care for all of our nation’s heroes whose service and sacrifice inspires us all.  That is our important and non-negotiable mission.  The President and Congress support us, and I’m honored and excited to lead this organization.

I look forward to meeting you, listening to you and serving alongside you.  I value your thoughts and insights as we improve our department 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.

Before confirmation as VA Secretary, Mr. Wilkie served Secretary James Mattis as his Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness—the principal advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense for Total Force Management as it relates to readiness, National Guard and Reserve component affairs, health affairs, training, and personnel requirements and management, including equal opportunity, morale, welfare, recreation, and the quality of life for military families.

Comments

  1. James Hart    

    We look forward to your leadership But you and your staff must also be Shepherds for us, similar to my Marine brotherhood, one for all and all for one. Your staff must get away from their desks and be among the waiting rooms to see what is happening as well as getting the claim personnel fired up and catching up instead of passing paperwork to eack other and delaying decisions.
    You need to enlist qualified veterans in each facility to act as mystery shoppers as well as the surveys we fill out on our visits. Most of us would do this with no pay to help our fellow vets.
    Congratulation on your apportment !!
    James Hart (redacted) @ Asheville VA

    1. Michal Gordon    

      I agree James, especially about the mystery “shoppers”
      To report across this beautiful country of ours. Were blessed in Asheville to have a fine staff. Thanks
      Michael Gordon

  2. Eric Mangum    

    We will wait see if you are accountable to your word. Some of the new programs are just covering up for lack of responsibility on the Old program. Also there is discrimination against Veterans between the New Program and Old Program. Also Veterans should have access to Medical equipment, not for it to be withheld from them at Charles George VA Hospital. Inform employees some medical problems Veterans have are Not to young to have that mentality.

  3. Kevan E Flanagan    

    The man that warned of the ‘ Military Industrial Complex’ truly knew his Soldiers. As all Veterans know a Veteran… Those that serve them well…Will know their Veterans as the Soldiers they are… And in that way THEY WILL serve their country…. tears for taps… Vietnam Vet I Corp 69

  4. Carl Swensson    

    Can’t imagine the amount work you’ve taken on here. Your Appointment signals a strong faith in your abilities. I am writing this to offer a solid and very simple plan to reduce the returning soldiers wait time for benefits which currently stands at 240 days down to 30 while at the same time saving the VA large sums of money. The author of the plan is a 100% disabled former Marine Sargent who has been trying his best to get someone at the VA to take a serious look at it. I’m trying to help him and will go out on limb by posting my contact info in the hope that you sir will be the one give him the time to hear it.(redacated)
    Please accept my heartfelt thanks for taking on this daunting task.

  5. JAMES W CASS    

    God help you Secretary Wilkie! Big congratulations for this monumental position you have undertaken.
    I am just a small potatoes combat veteran (Army) of the Vietnam war (1968-69) and served in my branch 6 years.
    Much change has happened recently already within VA. During the 70’s, 80″s and 90’s I tried to get medical help to no avail.
    I had gotten education and home loan benefits during that time, but medical said they could only give me an annual and general health checkup.
    Early in 2008, VA CALLED ME! They told me I was to be enrolled in total healthcare immediately! WOW what a change and the changes I have seen/experienced in administration, benefits, clinical/supportive is huge.
    Clocks seem to tick slowly but the desired time eventually comes around.
    Such is the movement of this gigantic organization that serves and is doing a dang good job of it. Keep up the good work.
    I AM PROUD TO BE A VETERAN, PROUD OF MY VA!

  6. Rich Colburn    

    Why are you so against the Navy Veterans, such as myself, that served in Vietnam, in the Gulf of Tonkin, and also rivers such as the Mekong Delta, and were exposed several times to Agent Orange ?? We are now suffering the consequences of that exposure, and are being denied coverage from the VA.. It feels like they don’t even recognize our service, because we werent actually in the jungles….

  7. Ray Hudgins    

    Medical Care for Veterans IS GARBAGE, AT LEAST FOR ME!!!

  8. J. O'Gara    

    President Trump has appointed Department Secretary’s that are opposed to the mission of the Departments they lead – determined to undermine their mission.

    As a Veteran I have to wonder whether you are one of his idealogues determined to do the same at the VA!

  9. Grady Watkins    

    Why is it that the claims department in Georgia keep asking for the same paperwork over and over again when it has already been received by them numberous times is this a stall tactic and why is it so hard for veterans to receive benefits that was promised to them where can you make a complaint against the veterans administration

  10. Bob Nichols    

    If the government is trying to help veterans, then why is there so many unqualified doctors working in the VA clinics in the Dallas Texas area. When you go to them for a problem a exam is conducted 3 ft away, When asked why they state that they are not that kind of doctor but a diabetes doctor, Why are they working as primary doctors and not really helping the Vets.? Every one I have found this way works for Concentra that is contracted by the VA to supply doctors here.

  11. Kevin Reilly    

    Well mr. Secretary I’ve been waiting 7 years form I filed claim for my PTSD which I have been getting treatment for for over 20 years. After the first year I was horrified to find out that the VA had lost my medical records that I provided. Then a year-and-a-half later I got my denial letter. Feeling totally disgusted I hired on a legal team to help me I now sit idly by waiting for the VA to correspond with the law firm to settle this nightmare once and for all. If I were you rather than backfill VA employment positions with civilians I would back fill the positions with veterans after all we look out for one another. Your system is broken and you need to get it fixed as soon as possible.

  12. Ted Hardin    

    I have been advocating for mystery shoppers for YEARS !!! They need to see the laziness of employees in the Houston VA !!! They are ALWAYS going to the retail store or the cafetera !!! I waited 45 minutes for lab work once because everyone (???) was out on break !!! I am NOT racist but it is ALWAYS the blacks !!! Go outside to smoke and see how many are on break and watch how long they are there !!! That is my main complaint but doctors talking rudely to patients is another thing that needs to stop !!! Not just me neither, a lot of patients talk about it out in the waiting room !!! The doctors only get (at the houston VA) 20 minutes to wait on a patient !!! Hire MORE doctors so the patient has time to get EVERYTHING taken care of !!! I think I am done for now !!! Vietnam 66-67 9th Batt. 7th Artillery !!!

  13. Perry Moon    

    Hampton VA Medical Center in Hampton, VA. really needs an overhaul. To go there is to leave with the feeling of a Quick Fix! and not any concern on their part. Needs GOOD DRs and MUCH MORE PATRIOTISM! The Pharmacy and it’s professionalism needs LOTS of work! Drs in the satellite offices leave for vacation and life saving medication can’t be filled! No one is left to see to this. Its all being run so inefficiently.

  14. Randolph A. Hall    

    Secretary Wilkie,

    My father a US Army COL (Ret.) worked for the The Department of Veteran Affairs from the 50’s through the late 80’s.
    My mother an RN worked for the DVA while my father was stationed with the DVA in San Juan, PR in the 60″s.
    As a US Army LTC retired I am impressed with your comments and look forward to your tenure.
    As a TRICARE recipient I do not use the DVA, however want what is best for my brothers and sisters in Arms.
    God bless you, President Trump and the United States of America!

  15. Adam Hanners    

    Thank you for your words and I pray that you have the strength needed and the support needed to follow through. As a veteran who has been fighting with the system for almost eight years now I am praying that things get turned around so I can move on with my life and that me and my wife and kids can no longer be stuck in limbo. My prayers are with you. Good luck and God Bless.

  16. HUGO ZAGAROLO    

    Close to 50 years after a tour of combat, I’ve been waiting for an Honorable person as you.
    With shame I requested assistance from whistleblower.

  17. Michael Louis Padgett    

    I don’t know if the new acting secretary will see this, but I had a thought regarding returning combat veterans. I think as part of their deployment there should be a decompressing period before returning to their families. I think there should be at least a two month inpatient residency where they can be seen by psychologist and other mental health professionals to help them reacclimate into society. I know too many veterans who come home and don’t have any tools that hello them reinsert themselves in the civilian world, and with family that cannot possibly deal with the myriad of issues many of them come home with. I’m a veteran and a psychology student, and this just seems like a no brainer

  18. K. Kasey Campbell    

    Kevan Flanagan says it best in his quote of the Military,… Veterans etc.
    James Hart makes several valid points also. Take heed Mr. Secratery of the VA. Service, not rhetoric is and should be your goal.

  19. Danny Brown    

    A division be created to help vets with their benefits the paper work, help filling out the forms, watch out for new benefits coming down the line from the federal government and checking to see if vetrans qualify for programs plus stop having veterans make co-pays to the V.A. hospital

  20. Adam Obest    

    That was awesome! Visionary and practical indeed. I think I want to work for VA now – transfer from HHS. Someone in HR, hit me up :)!

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