Secretary Wilkie: We must bind our wounds



I want to acknowledge the very difficult time we find ourselves in as a nation. And today I want to express my profound love for America and the Veterans who fought in uniform to fulfill the promises of our founders for every American. In the meantime, please pray that America’s strength and resolve can be found in her everyday leaders like those who have honorably served.

And we can, once again, in Lincoln’s words, bind up the nation’s wounds together. Our Veterans well know that in the military, we work together toward the common goal to accomplish the defense of our nation. We must listen to one another, genuinely care for one another, and recognize that our dreams are tightly woven together. Just as President Lincoln saw the need to take care of our Veterans as a nation.

We understand that our fate as a people is a shared one. We need each other in ways too numerous to enumerate. We will enjoy the fruits of liberty that our Veterans fought so bravely to gain and preserve only if we strive as a people who sincerely believe in the rights of all men and women.

VA will continue on the path of genuine concern and caring for our Veterans and their families. The nation can look to Veterans Affairs as a beacon of hope that has no other reason for existing but to serve those who serve so willingly to preserve and protect the rights of their fellow citizens, [that] respect and dignity are the rights of all men and women.

Without regard to background social standing or beliefs, our Veterans fought. For the right of conscience. I know our noble employees who have proven themselves as courageous and dedicated throughout this pandemic understand that better than anyone. Let us determine to stand together, work together and care for one another; to heal our wounds and realize the dreams as Mr. Lincoln said, “…of a more perfect union.”

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. Paul Stackle    

    I am in agreement on most of these complaints, because of the rudeness of some of those who work at the VA. The reasons the supervisors do not come to the phones is because they my not be there. Some of these people do not need to be there. I speaking of the office staff. I do not have as many complaints as some of these who wrote to you, but have had some problems. I am glad to married to a nurse, which helps to understand some of the problems , but just think of those who are needing help and do not understand how to navigate you system. The VA needs help.

  2. Charles C Slaght, Jr    

    I went in to see a Lee County Health VA Cardiologist and he snarled at me saying: “What do you want?” now that’s a great way to handle patients who pay his salary. Do a monthly mental health check on all VA providers… Please.!.!.!

  3. Robert Spencer    

    Forget about de-funding the police, we need to de-fund the VA and start over, my 82 year old dad who retired from the army. He had tours of duty in Korea and Vietnam and earlier today got hung up on from my Dad’s social worker, there was no anger or bad language just frustrating because I can’t get a call back. He was kicked out of his nursing home because of his extreme PTSD, which the nursing home new when he came, he’s been sent to a psych ward for the third time. I don’t know where he’s going to go next and when I called to follow up neither of the Social Workers working his case could give me any information – they just blamed each other.
    I was told since he was a Korean vet and is 100% disabled which is all service connected that he has priority, wow, can you image how bad it would be if he didn’t have priority – I don’t know what that means to them!!
    I’m going from an enthusiastic Trump supporter to lukewarm at best, I hate that but I care about my Dad more.
    I don’t know what to think and my Mom is beside herself with worry after more then 60 years of marriage. What a sad way to spend their last years.
    If a retired veteran that is 100% disabled due to two wars can’t get help from the VA – what the heck are they there for??

  4. Jim Volstad    

    4000+ hours working directly with our hospitalized veterans as a VA Volunteer. How am I doing?

  5. Richard G Kensinger    

    The current US Incivility War is deepening. I appreciate Mr. Wilke’s observations.
    Rich

    1. Anne P    

      Let us stand together in unity. Thank you, Secretary Wilke.

  6. Doug Nonya    

    This is the disaster that has become the VA. And the bottom line is that nobody cares. I thought that Trump actually was trying to help veterans and then experience this as a signature accomplishment. Just another bureaucracy sending veterans in circles. This is simply a brief summary of the horrible treatment in Trumps Veteran hotline.

    Called back to follow up with this issue and encountered two representatives who were rude by the name of “Rene” and “Eileen”. Since my initial experiences with the VA had resulted in no changes while the pattern continued and the people who were to investigate my complaints were arguing that the technical definition of medical malpractice was the standard operating procedure of the VA even continuing to argue such an absurd premise when I told him I was nurse it was clear that NOTHING would be investigated through this channel for obvious reasons. I won’t go into detail but the terms incompetent and dangerous would both be appropriate. How many other veterans walked away thinking that this is how medicine is practiced. So much for my “concerns or complaints” not being “valid”

    The people manning this call center seemed to not be representing the stated mission with the intentional runaround that began on this day, which is continuing to this moment, in real time. What I am experiencing is in outright defiance to the directions Trump gave when he stood in that very call center. So either Trump was lying or Wilkie decided he would simply create another layer of bureaucracy, and walk away, which is exactly what happened.

    On June 11th, I was told that this case was closed and that it was documented as “service recovery complete”. Part of my complaint was that I wanted to speak with the manager as well as an explanation of why the manager was unwilling to speak with clients when it was Trump’s intention that he himself would get involved if necessary. I’m not sure Trump made that statement with the understanding that managers in this call center would be refusing to speak with clients. I doubt it. Nobody contacted me with any resolution. None of the questions I had were answered or addressed, in addition the same two employees I had complained about, that day, engaged in the exact same behavior when I called again after the case was “resolved” and service recovery complete. Even after my telling them I had complained about their previous conduct they engaged in this behavior again. They didn’t do this because my issues were addressed or the VA takes our concerns seriously, they did it because they know there will be no consequences.

    At this point the manager is not doing their job, and reaching out to hear my concerns about their call center would have stopped this from escalating any further. Instead I was forced to call repeatedly as the call center made every effort to frustrate and obstruct my ability to achieve a resolution. This manager is engaging in a classic power struggle wasting the time, energy and resources of the organization leaving other veterans sitting on hold waiting for assistance as the staff are forced to field multiple valid complaints about the call center itself. The manager doesn’t want to address them because they are part of the problem. This would constitute “waste” as it’s defined by the US Government and it borders on qualifying as “abuse” as well. If the VA signed a contract with a call center allowing the manager the refusal to speak with clients then either the person who signed that contract didn’t care about Trump’s directive or Trump wasn’t serious about it. Possibly both, but at the very least, one or the other. There are other issues related to the negligent care I received that need to be addressed but I’m certainly not going to waste my time pursuing that within the framework of this already broken system. I will further those complaints when I am assured the system has credibility. Right now it has none, and I’m going to further spin my wheels by repeatedly engaging a broken system that other people may not have the stamina or understanding of how to pursue getting problems addressed. So let’s fix that first. Instead of picking people up individually as they scream the loudest how about we remove the roadblock so that traffic can flow freely.

    Multiple complaints not logged in this time period There were 7 calls that were never filed.

    June 8.
    Another complaint was logged. There were 7 additional complaints of other problems since the last one that the workers chose to not document or file trying to find ways to say they were duplicate complaints, which they were not. I’m told there is an investigation going on yet nobody has reached out to me from any credible investigating body to obtain one bit of information. I explained that you can’t investigate something without first hearing the complaint and I also pointed out at this time that focusing on the issues that resulted in my initial bad experiences that have already been reported through other means will not qualify as having investigated “anything” as that wasn’t, and continues to not be, my actual complaint. This is another reason why nobody is contacting me. People don’t want my concerns going up the chain of command so they are trying to create obstacles. Then if it ends up in the media Wilkie and Trump can complain they had no idea. Plausible deniability. The bottom line is there still is not an investigation into my complaint merely that they are focusing on other things to avoid addressing them. I’ve dealt with this before and It’s not going to hinder or distract me from pursuing this until these people are held accountable.

    June 10th.
    Only one case actually documented. Hotline complaint, Status of prior complaints “in progress” On this day I spoke to both of the agents I had previously had problems with, “Rene” and “Sam”. Same experience, Argumentative, talking over me and rude. In fact Sam was no antagonistic that I found that at one point I was screaming. I stepped back and realized this man shouldn’t be on these calls with anyone. He is going to push someone with emotional problems over the edge. I am a nurse, I was the Director of a Psychiatric Assessment and Referral center in Philadelphia. This is my field of expertise. There is no question in my mind that these experiences are the number one, easily fixable, mitigating factor that results in a nearly double suicide rate among veterans. I have fairly good coping skills. Not everyone reaching out for help in frustration is going to take this as far as I have to get something resolved. I called back and let the supervisors know my observations and “professional expert opinion”. No problem, he answered the call again an hour later. I hung up at that point. My credentials and background are easily verified.

    On this day I had two additional complaints that were not documented. I was disconnected 4 times in a row before an agent got on the line and without a second of hesitation immediately responded to my request to speak to a supervisor, “no supervisor or manager is available right now”. If they want to set the staff up to simply create obstacles they need to coach them to pause for a moment to make it look as if they checked. Not to blurt it out immediately.

    June 11th.
    Called again asking why my issues have not been resolved, why nobody has contacted me and why complaints are not being addressed.
    I spoke with a “supervisor” named “Andrew” that I had spoken to and who had hung up on me the previous day. I explained to him immediately that I didn’t want to speak to him since I had filed a complaint about his conduct the day before. I explained that I wanted to speak with someone else at which time he started talking over me argumentatively and then hung up on me. I called back and got transferred to him a second time in spite of stating I did not want to speak to him before the call was transferred. The second time I started to tell him the same thing. This time he snapped, “I can’t transfer you to another supervisor” at which time I explained that he should have said that to me the first time instead of trying to interrupt, talk over, and then hanging up on me. As a former CPI (Crisis Prevention Institute) instructor, it is simply remarkable to me how poorly trained these people are and this is a supervisor. To this response he hung up on me again. These calls are all recorded.

    I called back after being hung up on and again asked to speak to a supervisor. I was put on hold. I had never waited for more than a couple of minutes to get through to a supervisor prior so after 34 minutes of being on hold I simply called back on my second line leaving the first on hold. This time I was answered by someone in training who didn’t know how to properly mute the call to me when having dialogue with the trainer. I couldn’t hear the trainer but I could here the trainee. This time I was on hold for 14 minutes and then was put through to a supervisor. The trainee revealed in talking with the trainer that she was concerned about leaving me on hold because it’s the policy of the call center to check back. When I stated I could hear her conversion and that I was very aware of what they were doing a supervisor suddenly became available. I was told that the calls are taken in the order they are received yet my second call went to the supervisor and the other line that had called in much sooner was still on hold. Not only that but the “hold” music was different than the hold music was on the call that was transferred. Strange for a small self contained call center. Or is it that they parked the call in another location that bypasses the feature which forces the call to bump back if it sits on hold too long? The assessment center I ran was also a call center. I was the Director. I know all of these games. In addition not once did someone pick up the other call and acknowledge my over 40 minutes on hold before I finally disconnected it. As revealed by the trainee a direct violation of their own policy.

    Trump stated that if a veteran has a valid issue that is not getting addressed that he wants that issue brought to him. He stood in that very call center and made that statement. I can’t even get a manager to address some fairly serious issues. I don’t want to be pushed through to get this resolved. I am hoping that by any means I can be given the ability either directly, or by proxy to call Mr. Trump out about this key issue that he campaigned on. This is NOT political nor am I making it political, but between the care I received in the VA and the absolute nightmare this entire experience has turned into I expect my concerns to be addressed. I voted for Mr. Trump. I will not vote for him again after this. As for my credibility. I am a nurse, I was a 9/11 first responder, I lost my job as a whistleblower reporting a hospital in California for egregious neglect of minority patients. Not hitching on to the current climate either, It was a founded report, I lost my job 18 months ago trying to get justice for the people who were impacted, The State did a bogus investigation when another nurse reported it and they all covered it up. I’m still unemployed, can’t find work, and nobody in the entire state had any interest in helping me over that issue. I won’t even mention what a slap in the face that was to see Gavin Newsom kneeling when his office ignored 13 phone calls begging for help. Even after speaking to someone, who didn’t care, the response was to label me a crackpot and block my number so I couldn’t call. There were apparently no cameras rolling and that entire mess may still end up in the media. But that situation and the loss of my job is what led to my reaching out to the VA who certainly did a good job of finishing me off. I will NEVER recover from this in my life. Coming forward on the first issue cost my job, my savings, everything. I had to declare bankruptcy because I couldn’t pay my bills. So now I’m pretty much hoping that maybe someone else won’t have their life destroyed like mine was. That’s all. I don’t even receive services through the VA, Don’t want to, and apparently I’m no longer eligible. So I have nothing to actually gain from pursuing this, hoping someone else’s life isn’t destroyed like mine was.

    As for being a whistleblower I would discourage others from coming forward unfortunately. There is no support for you from the very people who claim they want to improve the systems and make things better. When Nurses start and actually are overwhelmingly turning a blind eye to egregiously bad care there is no hope to improve the system. I was told by every single nurse to shut my mouth and look the other way. I tried so hard to get something done and was met with nothing but resistance. So nothing changes and people should be very concerned. Because someday it may be your son, daughter, mother, sister, etc that ends up dying from something preventable that was never addressed because healthcare workers see what happens when people come forward. And like every other attempt to get help with anything I’m assuming that none of this will actually get addressed or resolved anyway.

    But I’m going through the motions and I will keep trying to get the entire story out in the media to expose what is going on. My background and credentials give me a unique perspective that I think should be heard and might be useful but nobody is interested. Just like nobody is interested in actually helping veterans or improving things, We just keep talking while we ignore the White Elephant in the room that just keeps getting bigger.

    I can go on and I can certainly fill in the blanks because there is much more. The sad part is this isn’t that hard to fix. It’s not the middle east conflict. There is simply a lack of will. Unfortunately as someone who did support Trump. My commitment and loyalty has to be to my fellow veterans first and you don’t get to use veterans as a campaign issue and then not deliver. There is a shelf life on this however because although I will go forward at any time I’m likely going to be losing my housing, and this time there doesn’t seem to be any way for me to avoid it. I’m not asking for assistance there, I’ve already tried and apparently I don’t meet the requirements of qualifying for anything until I’ve lost everything so there isn’t any point because once I’ve lost everything I’ll never recover. This is also why the homeless problem is out of control. The actual assistance is too little too late so I’m going to be a statistic. Reaching out for public assistance was an experience similar to or worse than the VA.

    This is the basic outline. Hopefully someone will do something about this before more people simply give up before making it to this point. It’s really a national shame the way our veterans are treated. What’s also interested is that in a moment of anger I described the two female agents in my complaint as “those bitches in the call center”. I also made it clear that my complaint was about the president’s VA hotline. Yet the complaint was forwarded to the Woman’s Call Center. Not only is this actually a perfect example of the institutional sexism within the system but it demonstrates without any doubt that the complaints are not even read. If they had read the complaint I was clear about the call center. They didn’t read it, they glanced at it, saw the word “bitches” ‘ and assumed it was the woman’s call center. It’s simply remarkable. I also followed up with the Congressional Liaison Office for the VA, I emailed Wilkie’s office directly of which the first he responded to and then ignored the next 10 and only responded again when he thought the media was involved and initiated the “investigation” that is being conducted without anyone reaching out to get the facts. These people should not be in these positions. I also reached over 18 times to the White House through their “contact the president” I have called him out repeatedly and even called him out as a liar over this issue and I simply get form letter responses.

    1. Michael Duarte    

      I support your comments! I am an Army vet and lost complete trust in the VA. I applied for more than 500 jobs since retiring in 2007. In that time, I lost trust in the HR Dept at all the VA’s I applied for jobs. I have a Masters Degree, I am Honorably Retired, and a disabled Vet. However, the 5 or 10 point preference is a huge joke! HEY HONORABLE WILKIES, DO YOU EVER READ THE FEEDBACK FROM MILLIONS OF DISAPPOINTED VETS? I DOUBT YOU CARE because your words are just face value! KARMA WORKS, KARMA COMES COMES BACK.

  7. David Patrick Devan    

    You need to follow previous admin on presumptive diseases associated with agent orange and accept the findings of the NAM report as the VA always have. It is ludicrous to wait years for a decision and wait years for a decision from judges on an appeal

  8. S W    

    I’m in total agreement with Mr. McGee. One of his other lies is the “we are not invisible” campaign for women veterans. Another sham because women KNOW for a fact that they are invisible at the VA.

  9. Ralph Gordon McGee    

    You are undeserving of anything. You have been in place now and have created a system that kills Veterans daily.
    You are not a leader, you’re a pencil-pusher. A bean counter. You lead from behind, a tactic that never works.
    You are responsible for the suicidal deaths of over 6000 Veterans/month.
    You don’t allow Pre-911 Caregivers to receive assistance.
    You have made a complete mess of the Pharmaceutical departments of hospitals.
    You used money meant for CBOC facilities, but nobody seems to know where it went.
    You allow people on the PTSD wagon, who then go out and work, drive, vacation, exercise, hike, camp, etc.
    Then you hand them their next VA pay, with them laughing at you all the way to the bank.
    You’ve allowed a smaller, NON-MEDICAL government office to control our medications.
    Nobody knows who is running the ship, because mostly? There is no one there.
    You still allow bonuses for Administration, and for what? Failure? That’s what you’re doing. Rewarding failure.
    Resign.

    1. Patrick Bryan    

      So when are you going to really start?? When are you going to finally address the RMANDED APPEALS BACKLOG at the BVA??? When are you going to treat ALL Veterans EQUALLY???

    2. Doug Nonya    

      Trump breaks his promise to veterans as his “call center” delivers poor quality of service. Trump’s promise of oversight undelivered. Registered Nurse, Veteran, 9/11 first responder; subjected to sub par, negligent care and falsification of medical records. Attempts to get resolution fall on deaf ears as issues continue to escalate.
      “I will instruct my staff that if a valid complaint is not addressed, that the issue be brought directly to me,” Trump said in 2016. “I will pick up the phone and fix it myself if I have to.” President Trump
      Trump promised to fix veterans’ problems. Now they call his hotline desperate for help.

      In addition to the subpar treatment I received, I found that when I needed help and was facing possible loss of my home and ability to make a living, I reached out to the VA for assistance. In return I experienced negligent care, falsification of my medical records, told by a representative from patient experiences “…good, then you can whine about your aches and pains to someone else.” They accomplished all of this in less than a year.

      I was nearly done with the VA when I had another bad experience. At this point I reached out to the Call Center put in place by the Trump administration. When reaching out to President Trump’s VA call center I was treated rudely by most of the representatives I spoke with and then lied to by the supervisor who hung up on me when I asked to speak to a manager.

      I have reached out for assistance through the office of the Secretary of the VA and have been either ignored or trivialized. Given Trump’s comments I believe that I certainly fall into the category of issues that are not being resolved. While I wouldn’t necessarily expect him to respond personally, I do expect his “representative” to demonstrate the same sense of urgency which is clearly not happening. Especially in regards to issues as serious as the ones I have experienced.
      The reference to negligence and sub par quality of care is not the opinion of a layperson but a seasoned healthcare worker with experience in clinical management. Falsification of a medical record brings to question possible criminal conduct. After this last experience with Trump’s “call center” it wouldn’t seem that “improving” is the word I would choose. The solution has simply become another bureaucratic waste of money giving veterans false hope that someone will actually get involved and take their concerns seriously. This is something that clearly isn’t needed.
      I voted for Trump so for me this isn’t based on a political agenda. Unfortunately I’m not sure I’m going to be able to continue my support over all these issues. Fixing the VA shouldn’t be political and you shouldn’t be getting credit for trying to polish a turd. I am trying to remain objective but this is really a slap in the face from this administration.

      Since my efforts to obtain satisfaction through the processes made available seem to be going nowhere I am reaching out to you today seeking to send a message to the President that the VA is STILL A MESS and the person you have running it is dismissive of the people he is supposed to be working for. Literally!

      I have prepared a detailed summary of the events including all 5 contacts I had with providers within the VA system. I can provide that upon request if there is any interest in developing this as a story. Please feel free to contact me should you have any additional questions. Veterans die every day at nearly double the rate of the general public and there is no question that the constant pushback trying to get help is a contributing factor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Solve : *
12 × 26 =