By: Frank McCurdy, NEC
Today is August 20, 2014, the VA is in the headlines just about every day. On July 29th, the US Senate has recently confirmed new VA Secretary Robert McDonald. Secretary McDonald has an impressive resume to include CEO of Proctor & Gambles and West Point Grad. He seems more qualified than most of our recent VA Secretaries. The quick confirmation is a positive first step.
In the meantime, Deputy Sloan Gibson has been traveling the country and advocating changes that we have requested for years. Gibson arrived in Denver on the August 5th. On Aug. 6th, he met with 2 Senators, 4 Congress persons, Air Force and Army Medical Leaders, the Denver VA hierarchy, State Military Affairs, all the VSOs, and even the Dean of the University of Colorado Medical School. When asked about our new Fitz VAMC, he simply said, “it will be built.” A lot of promises were made!
Gibson outlined a litany of changes from scheduling, to more doctors and nurses, and everything in-between. I will say, “Deputy Secretary Gibson appeared very sincere.” This is a good start, but now, the burden of the overhaul rests on McDonald’s shoulders.
No one is capable of changing the culture of a bureaucracy, the size of the VA overnight. To achieve success, we really need to support McDonald. Do you know, the Senate confirmed McDonald by a 97 to 0 vote. When is the last time the you saw the Feds cooperate unanimously. That confidence may bode well for the ability of McDonald to make unpopular changes. Let’s hope so! But that’s not all!
Congress also found 16.7 billion to mitigate current problems. Ten billion to get temporary care in the private sector. Add another 5 billion to hire additional medical personnel. It would appear the VA has recognized it shortcomings and is finally willing to address problems at the highest level. What can we, as a major VSO, ask for?
It is relatively simple. We need a VA that is 1) TRANSPARENT, 2) ACCOUNTABLE, and 3) WILLING TO COMMUNICATE with their Veterans and their VSOs. If McDonald and Gibson can infuse these basic concepts into the VA culture, there is a chance we may get a VA our Veterans deserve.