During his first few days on the job as the ninth secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Dr. David J. Shulkin sat down for an interview with VA’s digital media engagement team. Prior to taking the job as secretary, Shulkin served as the VA’s Undersecretary for Health for 18 months.

In his interview, Dr. Shulkin talks about his connection to the Veteran community and what motivates him to serve them, his goals and vision for the agency and how he plans to address the challenges that face the VA. He talks about the comprehensive nature of care that VA provides to Veterans that cannot be matched in the private sector, not just including healthcare, but also benefits and memorial services.

For more of the secretary’s interview, watch this quarter’s episode of The American Veteran, VA’s digital news program that brings you inspiring stories about Veterans.

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Published on Mar. 14, 2017

Estimated reading time is 0.7 min.

Views to date: 132


  1. David A Prendergast March 20, 2017 at 11:31 am

    As a 100% service connected disabled veteran, I want to bring to your attention the state of affairs here in rural California. Our Eureka, CA veteran’s clinic (zip code 95501) has a continuing problem of getting and maintaining medical doctor providers. We live nearly 260 miles north of San Francisco on the California coast. With the exception of one doctor, we experience doctors coming and going with unfortunate regularity. As a veteran who has had cancer twice, agent orange exposure in Vietnam, I need regular qualified medical care to care for my medical needs. We need to have someone from the V.A. management team to visit the clinic, without prior notice, to see for yourself the near total lack of medical services. The NON doctor services are generally very good, blood test, eye examines, glasses, pharmacy, etc., all non-doctor services. Please help!!!!!
    David Prendergast

  2. DAMIEN B. TOROC-POW March 19, 2017 at 10:01 pm


    • Gary Hicks March 20, 2017 at 4:09 am

      You can always find the address VA’s Central Office at the bottom any http://www.va.gov webpage.

      U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
      Office of the Secretary
      810 Vermont Avenue
      NW Washington DC 20420

  3. Richard Freeman March 18, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    When is the VA going to put Hypertension on the agent orange list?

  4. Dennis Tatum March 18, 2017 at 10:00 am

    In regards to “completed claims”, and the backlog, an investigation needs to be done to determine how the backlog has been depleted or reduced for claims. I am part if a group that was simply denied, because of lack of a nexus letter, and thrown into the never increasing pile of appeals. This is extremely misleading to the public of the reduced volume of claims. And even more unfair to the service related disability suffering veteran. Perhaps having an enormous impact on the suicide rate climbing on a monthly basis. Because if the 4 to six years of waiting in the appeals process, the veterans z suffer so much more with such as hunger, homelessness , and complete loss of dignity. And it all starts because the vha attending physician does not seem to have a clue if how vital the completion of a DBQ is for a veterans claim. The C&P doctors will most certainly and without reason reject the claim, simply and without cause indicating the ailments the veteran suffers from is not service related, and that is what the claims review personnel site for rejection. Thus, the appeals backlog is ever growing, and more veterans suffer. There is now a growing slogan regarding this situation. “They lie, deny, and can’t wait till we die”. This is because even when it is grossly apparent there is a service connection, the C&P evaluation is going to simply say it is not. Yes, the evaluator is suppose to give reason for that conclusion, but rarely, or if ever does. And the requirement of giving the veteran the reason if doubt never comes into play, because the C&P evaluator claims, they are not making a decision, but simply giving a negative evaluation, and it is up to the rating personnel to elect the correct decision. But the rather simply goes by what the evaluator comments. A no win situation for the veteran. Quite unfairly.

  5. Dennis Tatum March 18, 2017 at 9:39 am

    When will the Secretary require attending personal care physicians to complete DBQ’s for veterans? Without the PCP, completing the forms, the veteran has to only rely on a C&P evaluation, which almost 95% of the time results in negative comments to an illness being service related. The vast majority if the negative comments are overturned after the veteran is evaluated by a private clinician. This unfairly forces the veterans claim into an appeals process, which can take up to 10 years to process. Indeed, much if the claims backlog has been eliminated by VA, simply by using this process if claim denial. On the other side if the coin, veterans who can afford to simply go to a PCP, outside of. VHA, get the much needed service nexus DBQ completed in a favorable and proper manner, and the claim is processed swiftly. Because if the requirements if a nexus letter from a physician for the claim to be deemed valid, there is a huge disparate treatment between those who must go through the VA VBA DBQ process, and those who simply submit the forms via a private physician. And yes it is complicated. And the greatest impact is in minority and female veterans.

  6. Sue Ann Millison March 17, 2017 at 11:12 pm

    It is hard for me to believe that the problems with the VA can be fixed. More times then I can count those employed to work at the VA milk the system and feel entitle to do little work for pay.

    A recent example I can attest to, happened when I spent several days in the VA Hospital. A new maintenance worker was working diligently to do his assigned job. The supervisor came to check on his progress. The supervisor told the employee to take a break, the new maintenance worker stated he had taken a break already. The supervisor told him he was working to fast and need to take an other break in an hour. This is seen all over the government jobs at the VA system. Why do they get paid for 8 hours of work when they only work about 6 hours of actual work.

  7. JAMES GARY GRANT March 17, 2017 at 4:21 pm


  8. David Richard Rousseau March 17, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    I am a Vietnam war veteran service connected for Agent Orange. My wife and haven’t been able to engage in human contact because of severe neurogenic bladder resulting from Type 2 diabetes and erectile dysfunction. This causes much disruption in our marriage due to insecurity she’ll either cheat or walk. It is not conducive to harmony in my home knowing I have service connected 100% disability for PTSD. I’m at a loss and am seeking some kind of help.

  9. Tracy Grant March 17, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    I am a Vietnam Veterans wife, who has been in The VA Healthcare system for 13 years. I would love the opportunity to speak with someone regarding the first hand experiences I have had in VA facilities. Your looking from the top down but I’d like to share what I see from the bottom of the system. Please give me the chance to speak to someone with authority in The VA Healthcare system.

  10. Wesley Stone March 17, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    I was Exspedia to Nitrogen tectroxcide ( oxygen mixture that mixes with fuel on an intercontinental ballistic missile)…I have several medical issues and the VAdeal with them as best they can.. ( limited knowledge of this exsposure)… I lost my upper teeth and now have dentures… within four years of my discharge.., I can not get dental care At the VA. Due to not being 100% disabled… the military caused this issue and will not allow me to get further dental care… A set of new dentures and care or removal of my lower teeth would help… they have accepted blame on my issues. I have a 60% disability with my sinus area and hearing loss… can you advise what I need to do for this. Thanks

  11. john lyons March 17, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    my disability appeal filed in 2007 is more than ten 10 years old The Veterans need results and not more broken pleges

  12. Brian Eastwood March 17, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    When will the VA acknowledge the exposure to Agent Orange on Johnston Atoll from 1972 until it was destroyed? I was deployed tdy there from 1972 to 1975 for a total of 242 days and worked within spitting distance of the leaking storage site. Follow-on checks of the drinking water showed high levels of contamination. I have two qualifying diseases type 2 diabetes and ischemic heart disease.

  13. Frank Bernabei March 17, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    I served on the uss Boston ca-69 in vietnam 1969 fired 18,000 shells supporting ground troops sat in Danang harbor water supply was tainted twice crew got sick . I saw plane spraying agent orange .Twice projectiles exploded in gun barrels sailors where injured still va does not give us Vietnam vets deserve I have agrgressive prostate cancer associated with AG exposure stated my surgeon still va denies benefits I hope president trump give the blue water Vietnam vets the benefits they deserve!

  14. Streeter, Bruce,L. March 17, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    I am a DAV awaiting for authorization for a total reverse shoulder replacement since Sept. 25, 2016. My surgery scheduling nurse and me included have TRIED to get authorization from the Veteran’s Choice program, but no-one seems to be able to get their shit straight!!! I can barely stand the pain, and will at some time, try to score pain pills on the street in order to get at least some pain relief

  15. John arnold March 17, 2017 at 1:38 pm

    I served in Vietnam and now have hypertension .
    Age maybe a concern to you all , stating 2/3 of people have it due to normal age, but those of us that served our country lost our age during the war.
    Especially those like myself drafted !!
    Give us what we earned . Compensation!
    Respectfully submitted
    John arnold

  16. robert d bratcher March 17, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    I am a veitnam era vet. I served excellently for 21/2 yes. Then was caught with 1/10 gram herion
    I was given an OTH discharge. This is more than unjust. They sent me home a drug addict with no help what so ever. I have had problems my entire life due to this. I applied for upgrade was denied no reason. I was a good solider and I volunteered to defend my country’s people
    I found drugs in the army as so many others but the others received help. Please help me

  17. Jerry C Brothers March 17, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    I was in Det1 56Special Operations Wing in Udorn Thailand. Our classified combat locations where in Laos. Many Special Ops, Special Forces, Delta etc have their own doctors. A lot of our injuries were never filed in the main stream records as in Laos ” we were not there” nor we still considered in the Air Force. These classified situations need to be dealt with as the main thing we Vets here are that it was not in our records. Stop calling Vets whistle blowers that are trying to fix the system. It is demeaning……

  18. John Bowles March 17, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    This is Retired SSG John W Bowles, I am very interested in finding out why the VA Pharmacy Medications are now less than Generic brand… I have done research on the different meds and read alot of Individual reviews and many were the same about the quality, one pill may be okay and then another one might be a plan out Dude, and some of the better meds, the VA just plain out does not even carry… Please at least give us better Quality, we desperately desire it…

  19. Richard Ade March 17, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    I am a retired vet with thirty years of service. I am still waiting for the VA to give me another hearing to increase
    my disability I have been waiting for over three years.

    When is the VA going to take care of this issue. It seems to
    Me you have people collecting a pay check with doing
    their job.

    I also retired from the Cleveland VA
    Richard Ade

  20. anthony Martinez March 17, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    I am a Vet who during my years who was force into a war that everyboby hated in 1969 they came out with lottery and just out of high school didn’t enjoy my young life .Went to Fort Cambell Kentucky for a short life on too die for your country.My orders were to Vietnam and when they found out I had a brother in Nam they sent too Fort Carson Colorado until I received new order ,so they came down and went Korea for 12 months .But what we went through in unpopular war and the people didn’t have any respect for the service man. Now when I go to the VA I have a copay and on and on I feel that even though I didn’t serve in Nam that I went through hell and deserve a pension and no copay

  21. Eric Jay Brown March 17, 2017 at 12:45 am

    Will the Gulf War veterans have to wait 40+ years for the VA to make Gulf War Syndrome a presumptive service connection for veyerans?

  22. lewis cook March 16, 2017 at 10:08 pm

    Blah blah blah but where is my recognition and reward as i am the cold war us army and cold war 666 usm corp volunteer 1979+1982 that shook the hand of GOD in 1986 on us soil thus was the real reason the cold war ended and i get nothing from the antichrist clinton controlled VA so save your BS for someone who believes it as the real us govt has you on recording the 1956 2056 us military engineers of 725-23rd st nw ash dc.

  23. Charles Shepherd March 16, 2017 at 8:28 pm

    How about you look into why (after two months in office) there is a serious lack in official portraits of our current Commander In Chief as there should be. Furthermore the one put up at the facility in West Palm Beach, Fla. was ripped down. Can you image if Obama’s picture had been ripped down. As a Veteran I DEMAND you look into this.

  24. Jose Pabon March 16, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    On 1/13/2017 VA has established a presumptive service connection for Veterans, Reservists, and National Guard members exposed to contaminants in the water supply at Camp Lejeune from August 1, 1953 through December 31, 1987. Myself and several other veterans stationed at the Fort McClellan Military Base in Aniston, Alabama. The VA has already acknowledged that we were exposed to various chemicals and toxic agents. Is VA working on this issue to establish presumptive service connection on Fort McClellan veterans?

  25. Bradley J. Brisard March 16, 2017 at 11:56 am

    When will the VA give help to the Blue Water Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. No one will convince me it wasn’t in our fresh water tanks.

  26. Brian P. Sinykin March 14, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    Dr. Shulkin,

    You made a statement that you are tired of having negative statement made about the VA. The following link needs to be addressed as the IG has reported 307,000+ vets have died because the VA did not follow the laws that pertain to what the VA has to do when denying a veteran medical benefits. Please read the following white paper on this subject and call me . I am an associate member of the American Bar Association and on the Health Law Group, Military and Veterans Committee and on the Veterans Health Care Taskforce. We would like to solve this with you help.

    Brian P. Sinykin
    Executive Director
    Minnesota Veterans Advocacy Group, Inc.
    10100 39th Avenue N.
    Plymouth, MN 55441-1605

  27. Gary Fincher March 14, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    I am a Vietnam Veteran. When we run across things that are broken in getting care at the VA who do we talk to get help. I have tried through the traditional ways and have received lots of talk. I am a pretty bright guy and this does not set well with me. So please advise me of who should I speak with to help get through this red tape or just inter-facility ability to serve?

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