As the current administration comes to a close, the VA continues to innovate to become more responsive and effective in serving Veterans. Investing in the future of Veterans, Secretary Bob McDonald helped pioneer the new “MyVA” transformation process, aiming to model the department as the “top customer service agency in the federal government” and “encouraging innovative approaches to serving Veterans.”

Though there is certainly a mandate to keep improving, the VA has made remarkable progress under the leadership of Secretary McDonald: trust of the VA among Veterans is up to 60 percent from 47 percent in December 2015, Veteran homelessness has been cut in half since 2010, and appointments and claims are being processed much faster.

The Center for New American Security hosted a chat with McDonald on Tuesday at CNAS’s offices in downtown Washington. As the new administration takes charge of the VA, and with plenty of progress still to be made, McDonald discussed how the department can best position itself to continue these transformations into the future.

Watch the discussion here:

This article was submitted to Vantage Point by the Center for New American Security.

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Published on Dec. 13, 2016

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  1. Lyle J. Montgomery December 19, 2016 at 11:39 am

    As a whole the Omaha NE VA is pretty good. The care that I have received there is excellent and as good as at any civillian hospital. The medical staff and techs do a great job, but the administration leaves a lot to be desired. The patient advocate is a joke.I asked him if a 100% disabled veteran is eligable for dental care, he said no unless it was service connected. I thought that he was wrong so I talked to someone in another department and found out he is wrong and a 100% dissability does qualify for dental. when I went back and told him he just blew me off. Where do they get these idiots? These people get locked into a civil service job and even though they are incapable they cant be fired. This needs to change. If he cant be fired mabye he could be transfered. I feel he would be better at sweeping floors and cleaning toilets. I doubt that leaving this reply will do any good, It seems that no one gives a damn but it gives me a little satisfaction

  2. Bill Baiocchi December 17, 2016 at 8:42 am

    A fine example of our progress. I typed this reply and it was dropped for lack of a code.
    Most sites allow you to correct the problem but your site dropped the message altogether.
    Something as basic as this is another symptom that this VA system isn’t near where it needs to be.,
    We have a Director with impressive credentials but isn’t getting the easily accomplished short-term results so very much needed.
    He can cite all the PG and Harvard Business Review information he wants but what we need in the short-term is common sense and ACCOUNTABILITY.
    Please check out a recent Wall Street Journal article citing that after two years the wait has doubled and that two executives were able to create their own job descriptions in a state that they wanted to move and billed the government $400,000 for moving expenses.
    The article also cited that over 60 executives were transferred to other areas. Talk about ‘rearranging the deck chairs on the Titantic”!
    Cultural change takes time but much better short-term results must be achieved.
    Culture eats strategy for lunch. Leadership has a responsibility to accomplish results through ACCOUNTABILITY and common sense as they wait for the effective strategies for the future

  3. jack ravin Aide to Sec. Cleland December 17, 2016 at 1:29 am

    SECVA Bob has done an amazing job bringing his 30 plus years of experience at P&G into the VAHC. I admire his use of a Mission and Values Leadership Model to improve the veteran’s experience from the first day he/she becomes a Veteran. The VA Hospitals are being updated as Congress passes the VA’s budget requests. The counseling programs are “state of the Art” especially at the Veterans Readjustment Counseling Centers, started back in the late 1970s by Sec. Max Cleland, former SECVA under President Carter. Having visited over 48 veteran readjustment centers in region 5, I can honestly say the staff are well trained and possess the college degrees to show for it. Bob’s idea of dividing the VA into 5 separate regions to allow for customized service by region is one to increase local public support and rebuild the divide between public and veterans communities. The VA, through the Vet Center Outreach Staff, are educating the public with the help of local Veteran Service Organizations ( 10 million strong). If the VA can close this “gap”, we may just see the suicide rate start to decrease. The Veterans Administration, Bob McDonald, truly “have our backs”.

  4. William W. Freck December 17, 2016 at 1:19 am

    Dear Secretary McDoald: I have been waiting since June to get a pair of shoes from the VA in Phoenix AZ. I am diabetic and are waiting for dress shoes w/a half inch lift. The only answer I get from podiatry and the patient advocate is that they are very busy and back logged, common give a break, 6 months is not realistic don’t you think? I am also been waiting for a hearing on claims submitted for months. I am a Korean vet that served his country for eight years that feels as though Korean vets don’t seem to count. You say that claims the claims rate has dropped 90%, not in Phoenix, it seams as though they are over whelmed and don’t care I’m not sure. Your help would be greatly appreciated, among other issues.

  5. Steven t Larue December 16, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    I am in my second BVA appeal process and I been waiting 4 years for BVA to make another decision so I
    Can appeal again to Veterans Appeal Court. I been in appeals since 1971, it took me after 12 Rating Decision Denials in 2012 VA allowed me 100% Service
    Connection Disabilty. Until
    VA employees can be fired,
    Nothing will change at VBA or VAMC.

  6. Daniel Milburn December 16, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    I do not see how any one can claim things are better, when McDonald has refused to fire all of the incompetent people in the administration side of the house. The problem that was in Phoenix is spreed form coast to coast. Here in Alabama under CAVS they have doctors who report to a nurse. That same nurse (name redacted) argues and talks down to veterans and doctors alike and is the key reason that we have lost many doctors at the CBOC. Things are so screwed up that no one wishes to be the Director here. I could go on but what does it matter. No one even talks about the hugh back log on appeals it is pathetic. or that people in the process throw away key documents in the folds folders be fore the file is sent to the Board of Veterans appeals.

  7. Ron Ballweber December 16, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    Welcome to the VA club. It took 36 years to get benefits owed to me so just hang in there one day it will come if not you then maybe your spouse or children

  8. George Schryer December 16, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    I question the homeless claim. The matrix they use to determine if a Vet is homeless is disingenuous at best. If a homeless Vet has a shelter near his location he is not classified homeless even if he has never used the facility. If he only goes there occasionally for a meal he is not classified as homeless.

  9. Ronald Provost December 16, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    I find it hard to believe that the claims rate has dropped by 90%. I have a neighbor who is suffering from Parkinson’s disease and not able to work in a Vietnam veteran who is had a claim in for well over eight months and was denied 100% Service connected claim. He was a truck driver in Vietnam hauling agent orange in 50 gallon drums it’s just hard to believe he was denied his due claims benefits

    • jack ravin Aide to Sec. Cleland December 17, 2016 at 1:37 am

      I don’t think he said that. I did hear Bob say that 90% of the leadership positions have been filled with new people. The claims could drop by 90% in 2025 if Congress will support his budget requests. There are 21 million veterans out there, with a VA staff of 360,000 of which 1/3rd are Veterans.

  10. George Melvin Clay December 16, 2016 at 11:11 am

    Why should I buy supplemental insurance(BCBS) when I get billed for office visits but VA BILLING will neither send the bill to BCBS NOR send it to me as I have requested so that I can submit it??
    I think that I should post to FACEBOOK that all veterans should stop obtaining additional insurance.
    The people with whom have spoken in the Billing area said that VA is not reimbursed for its services. That being the case, why is each veteran asked to provide all information regarding additional insurance? I don’t think that the Billing people have any clue as to what is actually occurring in the reimbursement process. I need to be reimbursed utilizing the BCBS insurance for which I am paying thousands of dollars a year !!!!

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