In reflecting on his first 100 days, Veterans Affairs Under Secretary for Benefits, Paul R. Lawrence, Ph.D., focused on the VBA mission and what it means to Veterans.
“When you think about success, we’re the ones that help you get there,” he said.
“I have come to appreciate that the totality of what we do at VBA helps Veterans realize the American Dream. This is a profound responsibility,” he said. “If we think back to WWII, the vision was: you go off to combat, do your service, come back, get a job and settle down. As the world has changed, everything has gotten more complex, and Veterans are faced with more choices than ever before. At VBA, we help Veterans navigate post-service life and realize the American Dream.”
Lawrence, an Army Veteran, believes that one of the keys to understanding Veteran issues is in building relationships with Veteran Service Organizations as well as state and county Veteran representatives.
One of Lawrence’s first priorities was to expand collaboration activities with VSOs to ensure that everyone in the Veteran service community is working together toward common goals. “I’ve met with traditional VSOs, post-9/11 Veterans groups, state and county VSOs, to discuss new ways we can work together to take care of our Veterans,” Lawrence said. “We are better together. I want to find new ways to work with these groups to ensure we have their insight as we move forward on initiatives to serve Veterans.”
These growing relationships with the Veteran service community helped guide his priorities for VBA. Lawrence established a framework of three priorities to help focus VBA initiatives:
* Provide Veterans with the benefits they have earned in a manner that honors their service
* Ensure we are strong fiscal stewards of the money entrusted to us, and
* Fostering a culture of collaboration.
There are a number of initiatives underway to meet these objectives. While this list isn’t all-inclusive, it demonstrates that VBA is focusing on the important work that needs to be done.
The Office of Transition and Economic Development (TED) has been established to improve military-to-civilian transition outcomes and bring greater focus to programs which position Veterans for economic success. TED will help transitioning Servicemembers, as well as older Veterans whose careers have changed over time and who may need help enhancing or refining their skills. Additional Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors are being hired to focus more resources on assisting Veterans. The VBA organizational structure has been realigned to streamline processes and increase focus on fraud, waste and abuse risk and improper payments.
Enhancing relationships with VSO groups is the cornerstone of fostering a culture of collaboration. “To better understand and meet the needs of Veterans, I plan to do more small group meetings to focus on the issues. Younger Veterans often have different needs than older Veterans. By meeting with VSO groups that have common issues and concerns, we can focus in on those needs and find solutions. This leads to a deeper and richer conversation.”
“We understand the important role VBA has in helping Veterans be successful,” Lawrence said. “They have made sacrifices for your country and we owe them nothing less than our dedicated service to help them achieve the American Dream.”