Customer service, stability and quality care for Veterans remain top priorities for VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. He reinforced that while visiting VA medical facilities and attending national Veteran engagements in three states last week.
Wilkie served as keynote speaker at the American Legion’s 100th National Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He called members of the nation’s largest wartime Veterans service organization “powerful advocates” and said, “let me thank you, thank the entire American Legion past and present for everything you have done to make this the last best hope of man on earth.”
In referring to his prime directive of customer service, Wilkie said “we have to talk to Veterans, we have to listen to Veterans, because every major advance and relief for those who have ‘borne the battle’ has come through the efforts of Veterans themselves, not waiting on the slow machine of government to move.”
Wilkie also lauded the passing of the MISSION Act in making it easier for eligible Veterans of all eras to navigate the system and ensure they receive the best healthcare possible whether delivered in VA facilities or in the community.
While in Minnesota, the secretary also visited with patients and was given an expansive tour and briefing by leadership at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System. The facility has an excellent reputation and is known worldwide for its strong research and academic services focused on Veterans. The facility is recognized for its overall performance and rated a 5-Star. Wilkie was particularly impressed with the advancements in prosthetic technology that is now available to Veterans there.
The secretary was also welcomed at Fort Snelling National Cemetery which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The cemetery is the final resting place for Minneapolis-area Veterans dating back to the Revolutionary War era with more than 225,000 interments.
He then headed to Dallas, Texas to visit with Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) leadership and speak to hundreds of attendees at the PVA’s 8th annual Health Care Summit & Expo. There, Wilkie reinforced his top priorities and his commitment to working hand in hand with health care professionals saying “as the secretary of this department, I am the temporary custodian of the flame that first burned on revolutionary fields in the 1700’s, it is a flame that you all carry and are trusted with and my pledge to you is to be part of your team … I am honored to serve with you and I thank you for carrying on the most noble mission in the federal government.”
Wilkie also engaged with Veterans and leadership at the VA North Texas Health Care System in Dallas. Topics of discussion included progress in suicide prevention and mental health awareness outreach, innovative surgical care procedures and modernization efforts.
At his final stop in Cleveland, Ohio, the secretary served as a keynote speaker for the unveiling of a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument and Medal of Honor ribbon cutting ceremony alongside retired U.S. Marine Corps warrant officer and VA Veterans service representative Woody Williams. Williams received the Medal of Honor during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. Secretary Wilkie also participated in several media interviews including Cleveland’s Morning News in which he told the host “the Gold Star Families … have given the most of all of us and they remind us every day why all of us sleep soundly at night.”