By: Frank McCurdy, National Executive Committeeman – Article published in the August 2014 Internet Observer
For this NEC Report, I would like to focus on the VA. Hot topics include the selection of a new VA Secretary, the policies he may impose, and a brief update on the progress to resolve the Fitzsimmons VAMC construction.
On May 5th, 2014 Commander Dan Dellinger called for a change in VA leadership. Since then, Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson has been appointed to the position as Acting Secretary and will hold that position until the Senate confirms a permanent Secretary.
President Obama has selected Robert McDonald, past CEO of Procter & Gambles (P&G), to replace Shinseki. The VA with over 300,000 employees is bureaucratic and complex. P&G, a multi-national corporation with 120,000 employees is also complex. McDonald supporters believe this experience will allow McDonald to successfully manage the VA. So far the American Legion (AL) has not formally endorsed McDonald. The Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee will start confirmation hearings Tuesday, July 22nd. McDonald’s weakness is his lack of experience in the medical care industry. Since McDonald is a Republican selected by a Democratic President, the money is on his successful confirmation. What should we as veteran demand from a McDonald VA?
I would suggest that we demand ACCOUNTABILITY, TRANSPARENCY, and willingness by the VA to COMMUNICATE with the VSOs. If McDonald implements policies and procedures that include our big three, the VA will deliver a higher quality medical service and better administration of disability compensation.
We continue to monitor construction at the new Fitzsimons VAMC.
Kiewit Turner (KT) and the VA pleaded their case before the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (CBCA) that concluded June 12th. Do not expect a ruling before Jan 2015. Do not expect a simple ruling. The ruling will include hundreds of decisions about change orders and the cost of those changes. In the meantime, KT continues to construct the medical center. There are about 900 workers on the site every day. As you know, KT claims the VAMC will cost about 1.1 billion. The VA claims the VAMC can, and should by contract, cost 616 million. When all is said and done, our Colorado Senators and Congresspersons will have to obtain additional funding. We need to insure, especially during this election cycle, that our representatives commit to the needed additional funds. Make contacts, by telephone, email, rallies that you attend; etc.
AL National Convention is scheduled for Aug 22 thru Aug 28th 2014. This could be one of the more interesting National Conventions. With all our issues coupled with our AL Convention just prior to the mid-term elections, the political climate will be intense.
I can assure you, that veteran issues will be a high priority. I cannot emphasize how important those simple emails, letters, and/or telephone calls to your representative’s office or campaign headquarters means to our success. You personally can make a difference.