Hello. I recently testified before Congress about our vision for Veterans. I wanted to take a few minutes to share that vision with you, about the state of our VA.
The turmoil of the first half of 2018 is now in the rear-view mirror. And I’m happy to report, the state of our VA is better. It’s better because of the support of the President, Congress, and an unprecedented series of legislative actions to reform VA and improve care and benefits for Veterans.
And it’s better because of you, good people dedicated to caring for Veterans, their families, their caregivers, and their survivors.
It’s been my privilege to meet and hear from many of you at national cemeteries, claims processing centers, and VA hospitals from Boston to Las Vegas. You’re tackling tough issues, implementing Appeals Modernization as you reduce wait times for Veterans with pending appeals, implementing the MISSION Act to give Veterans more choice in health care decisions, adopting the same electronic health record as DoD to give Veterans a seamless transfer of medical information once they leave the service, and improving transparency, increasing accountability, and protecting whistleblowers.
You’re on the cutting edge of medical care in rehabilitative services. You’re out-performing the private sector in terms of quality of care and patient safety. You’ve been working around the clock to serve and protect our Veterans across the Carolinas during this time of great need, providing foundational emergency response for our government. As a Carolinian, I thank you on behalf of my family and friends.
I’ve seen wonderful examples of your accomplishments that deserve so much more attention than they get. And I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am to be part of your team.
And Veterans and their needs are changing, faster than we realize. For the first time in four decades, half of our twenty million Veterans are now under the age of 65. They’re computer savvy and demand 21st-century service that’s easy to access, efficiently delivered, and available where needed. Ten percent are women. By 2040, about 16 percent will be women. Since 2000, the number of women Veterans receiving VA health care has tripled.
All of which is to say, we’re on the cusp of the most important era in the history of the Department, transformation not seen since World War II when General Omar Bradley headed the Veterans Administration.
It’s not business as usual. Veterans’ futures are in our hands. There are no more excuses.
So our first priority is customer service. That’s the prime directive. When Veterans come to VA, it is not up to them to get us to say yes. It’s up to us, you and me, to get Veterans to yes. That’s customer service. We’re going to make sure you’re trained and equipped to achieve that.
Our second priority, implementing the MISSION Act, will fundamentally transform VA health care. It will consolidate community care into a single program that’s easier for Veterans, families, community providers, and all of you to navigate. The MISSION Act also expands our family caregivers program to provide much-needed assistance to the people caring for some of our most needy Veterans day in and day out.
Our third priority is replacing our aging electronic health record. The new electronic health record will modernize our appointment system, automate our disability and payment claims systems, and connect VA to the Department of Defense, private health-care providers, and private pharmacies. Implementing the electronic health record will be an ongoing, iterative process to build a continuum of care that’s organized around Veterans’ needs.
Our fourth priority is transforming our business systems. We’re modernizing human resource management, finance and acquisition, and our supply chain. It’s about giving you more leeway to manage budgets, recruit, retain, and relocate staff you need to serve Veterans. It’s also about more robust partnerships with state and local communities to address challenges like Veteran homelessness and suicide prevention.
And we’ll keep making progress on other important issues like expanding services and sites of care for women Veterans so every Veteran across the country can choose to get her primary care at VA, filling our ranks in all areas, and providing more health care appointments than ever before.
The MISSION Act.
Electronic Health Record modernization.
Our VA is giving Veterans better access to care and benefits—a VA Veterans choose because we offer world-class customer service across our operations.
Veterans’ future is in our hands, and you’ve shown time and again it’s well-placed.
Thank you, and God bless all of you and your families. And God bless America’s Veterans.