I“It’s between your two ears,” my dad would lecture, implying that one’s values are most important in dealing with challenges and finding purpose in life.

My dad, a U.S. Air Force veteran, would offer this unsolicited advice to his offspring regularly, encouraging to us to respect authority, accept responsibility for our actions, deal with problems with courage and discipline, and most of all, have integrity in every aspect of our lives.

Growing up, I can’t say I was the perfect representation of this ideal. I regularly (and foolishly) challenged my mother and father’s vast knowledge and experience in comparison to my own, usually on petty things.

Years later, I realize that the values he imparted to me as a child were not only part of who he was and is, but are also reflective of his service to America in the greatest military the world has ever known—through the experience, training and values he gained in the U.S. Air Force.

Thankfully, he and my mom made sure these values rolled into the next generation in their family. From Baby Boomer to Millenial, and eventually, from Millenial to whatever they call the next generation.

And values are ultimately what define a person, a family, an organization and a country. They guide the important decisions we make, how we respond to challenges, and most significantly, drive results. Like whether a U.S. military Veteran can get in to see a VA doctor in a reasonable amount of time.

I am privileged to work on behalf of Americans like my dad at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which as we all know, is in the midst of a transformation and recommitment to its core values: Integrity, Commitment, Accountability, Respect and Excellence (the VA “I CARE” values).

VA's Core Values

VA’s Core Values

The fact that integrity is listed first in I CARE is no accident. Integrity is everything to a successful, value-adding service organization, and not coincidentally, a central element in the vision of the U.S. Air Force.

Like the values my dad and mom imparted to me, VA’s I CARE values should guide and inspire every VA employee, contractor and volunteer in the services we provide to Veterans. This means I CARE must fuel every conversation, every analysis, every decision and action we take on behalf of our customers.

Undoubtedly, these are challenging times to be working at the VA. But challenges are the necessary catalyst in any context for change and improvement. If everything appears smooth sailing and perfect, watch out.

I am excited to be part of VA’s transformation, restructuring, and shift to placing the Veteran at the center of everything we do. Where it’s our goal for Veterans to one day refer to our organization as “My VA”.

It’s a high calling, and an immense challenge in this huge organization. But with strong leadership, increased accountability and an unyielding commitment to our values, I know that VA will emerge a much stronger and effective organization, worthy of the Veterans we serve.

As my dad would say, it’s between our two ears.

Jonathan LudwigJonathan Ludwig is a program specialist in the Veterans Health Administration specializing in internal communications, education and policy. He joined VA in 2007 as a program analyst intern. A proud native Texan, Jonathan graduated from Baylor University in 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and English, and graduated from American University, School of International Service, in 2013 with Master of Arts degree in Global Environmental Policy. Jonathan is a strong supporter of public service. He is interested in new frameworks for effective governance, public policy, and institutional integrity in an increasingly dynamic and integrated world. He is honored to serve his country at the VA on behalf of Veterans like his dad and grandfather who have served and sacrificed for this great country.

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Published on Oct. 28, 2014

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  1. Brian Fraser November 7, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    I have worked in healthcare for almost ten years at a major hospital system with a Level one trauma center. We use the “I CARE” values system and I can say that my experience with it has been extremely disappointing.

    Prior to that I worked as a System Engineer, mostly in the semiconductor industry. One firm I worked for had a posted value system that was absolutely terrible; fortunately everyone just ignored it. The company had highly competent people but went through about 15 presidents in 16 years. It lost money right and left, in spite of having a good product.

    During that time I was realizing that company’s problems could have been corrected by a value system. I came up with Four Values that I felt could have turned the company around.

    The values have to be action oriented, not just abstract things like “truth”, “integrity”, “love”, “beauty”, “commitment”, etc. They must stress the need for DOING SOMETHING! People usually know the appropriate thing to do, but are prevented from doing it by the culture, or by lazy or corrupt management.

    For more of the story, see:

  2. patrick jahnke October 29, 2014 at 11:39 am

    Why did the goverment shut down on the narcotics drugs? Know the veteran us different ways to kill the pain and the va doc did not look in thier records to cc what they have try for pain . and know fight back for it go. Thur hoops and ladders, it been 8. Month of run around, wasting money to send me every were it not helping with burn nerve problem, will I’m waiting to seen me to Florida pain clinic to prove 3 weeks I know what needed , and prove these doctors and clinic I could been done sooner

  3. Kevin Strakal October 28, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Thank you for your comments, however I would be remiss not to point out many shortcomings the VA has had throughout the years. The recent challenges the public has come to know due to the current investigations and situations are only a part of the surface. As you, my father was a WWII Veteran injured severly during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. To have these stories and know his experiences were parts of many subjects throughout my years of growing up. To see my father go through the many challenges the VA put him through, especially as disabled as he was disheartening to say the least. As I grew up and now as a retired disabled veteran, I find myself going through the same frustrations that my father went through since 1944. Although it took me only two years compared to my fathers 10+ years to recieve disability I guess is an improvement, however much work needs to be done. To this day I have seen a lot of really good people work in the VA as their leadership, however I have not seen good people who are hard chargers. My suggestion would be to get out of the political world, treat the VA as a respected insitiution that it should be and actually honor the CARE creed as also the creed posted on the main VA buildings. To this date, it seems to be only lip service and an insititution that is supposed to take care of those people who gave us their very freedom has been taken for granted. For one I am happy these atrocities have come out in the open, however as a person who goes through the challenges of the VA on a regular basis, I can honestly say the wool is still being pulled over the eyes of the public. I would love to be part of a program that will actually work with the VA to actually earn the respect of those they serve. I would like to see the VA actually change to that my daughter who will be graduating basic training won’t have to go through the same challenges as her grandfather did since 1944.

    • Robert Lewis October 28, 2014 at 7:54 pm

      Very well spoken Sir. My Dad always told me – Talk is cheap but it takes money to buy good whiskey. Actions speak louder than words. R. L. disabled three tours Vietnam.

    • tray nothing November 4, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      Nothing will ever be changed. It is what it is, government look the other way run. It is hit or miss, and by GOD if you kept getting the miss and you made these sick ppl who also run scams. You will be on the forever miss list. It will never change just come up with more programs to make it look better. Not real for all. Just write it off, as is. The government knew way before this came out in news, how inapropriately behaviors and its management was a farce, and could hide behind closed doors to the public. Why continue the hope they are medical facilities. Its a losing battle to get worked up about. They do not understand the creed they print, never had too. They have a place to do as they please, and only reason it made it too the public is because a doctor had to wait for retirement to tell. Because they would’ve ruined his career. So these deaths reported, there are many more, or many damaged permanately, not because they didn’t know how. Because they have no respect for the word integrity. They have codes and not good ones. Take down those who oppose their unwritten policies. Have another vacation paid by VA medical care on country.

  4. patrick jahnke October 28, 2014 at 10:57 am

    Hey Bob why Dont u put ur email address on ur what ur doing. I found it Bob.mcdonald@va.gov please note this goes to ur secretary. Does he/she file 13 before u cc them?

    • Tim Hudak October 28, 2014 at 11:38 am

      His e-mail address isn’t hidden. Glad you found it.

Comments are closed.

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