Veterans deserve the thanks of the American people, the real thing, results much more than words. That means serious medical and educational benefits. I bear witness that the Department of Veterans Affairs is getting the job done better and better.

Part of the solution involves culture change, new ways of doing things, which is always difficult in Washington. The way that’s happening at the VA is a systematic effort to get the rank-and-file to tell management what’s going on, and how to do that better. Complementing that is commitment by leadership to make the best resulting ideas real. This is an ongoing effort, the vanguard involves formal efforts where I participated; my knowledge is first hand, and I’d like to personally thank each and every employee who participated in those efforts.

The VA is also reaching out to the private sector in what feels to me like genuine, but informal, public/private partnership. For example, we just saw some great software which builds on the Blue Button health records tool. It makes it pretty easy for a Vet to check out pertinent records, and to get them to health care providers, and more. This resulted from a vendor competition.

Meanwhile, there’s another effort where vendors are proposing telehealth solutions. The big theme is better medical care for Vets outside VA facilities, like at home. I’m seeing a lot of solutions that I’d like to see for myself, and hey, that would include Blue Button for everyone.

Okay, the deal is that people at the VA are getting results using common sense, getting stuff done to better and better serve Vets. That also means better return for the taxpayer dollar, and I sure hope it means better medical care for everyone.

Craig Newmark is the founder of the internet site Craigslist.

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Published on Nov. 11, 2010

Estimated reading time is 1.5 min.

Views to date: 57


  1. brenda hayes December 5, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Think Again,

    Been there; done that; still bringing up issues that the VA/VAMC is ignoring. But, I alwasy believe if you don’t speak up…then you become part of the problem and not part of the solution.

    The VAMCs seem to do what they want and how they want and when they want. Same can be said for the VARO and that perplexing and dysfunctional system.

    Apparently, there is no accountability to the VA/DC; therefore, there is none to the Veterans and their family members. The VAMCs/VARO’s seem to be independent operators.

    The Secretary would cringe if he only knew the truth. He isn’t being told about the less than stellar and more likely than not shameful treatment that Vets and family members are receiving.

    Culture change apparently as you know is very SLOW. It has to be top down management decisions with “Customer Service” being more than lip service. Have you read what the VAMC purport. Not reality. There I also have heard the following, “..don’t you know..that the Veterans are here for the VAMC employees; not the other way around.” (that was from a Veteran who has been there for 20 years) You just can’t make up some of these ludicrous situations that Vet and family members have had to endure. I have a boat load of them. I’m still waiting for someone to get back with a complaint about getting adequate services for a Veteran; THE SYSTEM IS BROKEN…and they know that Vets/Family members have no clout and cannot bring accountability to the table the way things are set up. Apparently, for the Secretary (the VA) to highly suggest that the VAMC do this or that; well; that does not work. The culture change that is needed will need more direct command and accountability.

    Where is the Secretary’s Vet/Family Member Advisory Council; where are all VAMC’s Advisory Councils.

    I’ve been trying to find out how a “highly suggested” program is supposed to be working and have found it very difficult to get people to respond or find out specifics on the VA Webpage.

    I understand that there is supposed to be a 2-5 yr plan for a Recovery Coordinator at a VAMC; don’t you think that the people that this plan is supposed to be serving should be able to get easy access to view it? NADA

    For instance, Why is Palm Beach VAMC “allowed” NOT to have a recovery coordinator/program? I was told that they wanted to keep this program in the Patient Advocacy Department! Someone on this blog had it right to begin with; that a hamburger at McDonald’s should taste the same in Alaska or in Florida.

    For instance, don’t you think that EVERY VAMC should have a top notch website to communicate with its Veterans and family members? NADA!

    KUDO: (I do like to give them when I can)

    Catch the Parkinson’s webpage in Richmond, VAMC. Great!!She’s done a fantastic job; then look at how the McGuire VAMC is not communicating with the rest of its Vet/family members!!

    There is no good way that the VA has its pulse on what really is happening to Vet/Family members; this blog is the first and foremost as close as it comes.

    Patient Advocacy? How really is it supposed to work? Replies to client/patient? NO When there are complaints, no one replies as to specifics–most people that take the time think their complaints are being deep sixed or everyone is doing CYA (watching their on sixes). The Patient Affairs is not for the Vet/family members; it’s for the VAMC to do CYA. Come on; let’s start being honest!

    For now; Perserverance..because there is more than we know that is coming about because of this almost 10 year “war”….the WW11 Vets are dying out quickly, the VN Vet’s are quickly behind them…and the VA/VAMC’s are not prepared and Vets and family members already know this from their present day struggles.

    That’s why, among many other reasons, that the Vets and family members don’t believe the VA; sorry, Mr. Secretary, I hate to jump on your enchilada fixings; but you need to listen and hear the real truth; not what your underlings want you to know or what some Challenge Reports will say; we all know; for the most part; you can make reports say what they want!

    I fear that this HOPE and CHANGE will go out the door in two years. Sorry, Mr. Secretary, but I have to refer to you as “the General” because you are “one of us” and you have shown it. You begged the question,”…why is it taking so long for these Veterans to get….” I will continue to believe that you WANT to change this broken system; but I am fearful of what happens when you stretch the rubber band and in two years its let go. It sometimes does not even go back to the original shape; but one much worse.

    Time is of the Essence, Mr. Secretary/General.

    By taking the time to write what we think, what we feel, and what our experiences have been…this is the way we support you in making this change. Rubber meets the road when people take the time to tell you their truth; not just put a useless sticker on the back of their cars!

    Please know this is real support.

    I see a lot of people are not using their real names!! What does that tell you? There are real stories of real vindictiveness from the VA out there and these also should be told.

    Vetwife Advocate

    P.S.Keep reading the VA Watchdog Now…they don’t mince words either.

  2. brenda hayes December 5, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    ERROR: Could not read CAPTCHA token file.

    What happened to the message go back to ..? Again, blipped my message off!! But I am saving them before I post!!

    Tell Lauren as she said she want to know about any problems. I’ve brought this up now 3 times!!

    Vetwife Advocate

    • Alex Horton December 6, 2010 at 10:32 am

      We’re working on getting a dedicated webmaster to work on these issues, but for now we have to share him. I will forward your error message to him to see if he can find a fix. Thanks.

      • brenda hayes December 6, 2010 at 1:27 pm

        Thanks for the reply. I had another blip just now.

        • Alex Horton December 6, 2010 at 2:47 pm

          I logged all of your comments about the issue and sent it to the IT guys. They compiled an error log and our blog tech is looking at them now.

          Also, I should note that, if I’m not mistaken, you are the only one who has brought up a recurring issue with the word verification. I asked if it could be a problem on your end. I’ll let you know what they say about it.

  3. Chris Harding December 2, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    Mr. Newmark,

    Thanks for fighting sexual trafficking and stopping the use of craigslist for Sex Adds!

    Also, thanks for your kind words!

  4. Think twice November 23, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    I use to think that I was the only one that had a bull’s eye on my back with the VA. I come from a rather large family that has had members serving in the armed forces going back to the Civil War, as a distant relative has his federal uniform maintained by the Chicago Historical Society. However, in my situation when the VAMC that I attend only now to receive prescriptions from for chronic health reasons, has doctor’s that misdiagnose me with stage IV cancer, based on one doctor’s incompetence, then I have to question the care that I am getting.When I complain to my newly assigned primary care physician that I can no longer handle the discomfort and pain from a neck and back injury and her response is “As we get older we all get aches and pains, you just need to suck it up”, this after twenty plus years of sucking it up from a service related inury. This followed by an eventual MRI and other tests that show that I have spinal stenosis, degerative discs, bulging disc’s throughout my entire neck and three bulging disc’s in my lower back. With this a doctor who says that he “Didn’t know how I was able to function each day from the pain that I must be suffering from.” Then I need to think about the quality of healthcare that I am receiving. When I receive medications prescribed to other vets, or prescriptions that differ from the ones prescribed by my primary care physician, when I questioned the pharmacy they check back with the doctor and say “oops sorry we were wrong” then I need to question the healthcare that the VA is providing.When I suffer from depression and have had two bouts of cancer by the age of forty-three and also spend the last days of my brother in law’s life helping him pass away from cancer with dignity and grace despite fighting my own, and I inform a nurse for these and other reasons that I would like to speak with a mental health counselor and her response is “Sometimes bad things happen in life and when they do, we need to just get down on our knee’s and pray, then get on with our lives”, then she denies the request to be referred to a mental health counselor, I then need to continue to question the healthcare that I am receiving from the VA. But, when one of my sister’s who is a vet and my brother who is also a vet have other nightmare stories from the VA, then I feel that the entire VA healthcare system needs to be questioned and should he held accountable. This seems to be the main problem that I can see, once vets and their families accept and receive anything other than the best medical care and attention, then they have bought into the VA’s years of justification and excuses. Too many times my wife and I have been at the VAMC and an issue comes up for another vet and what do they do? They get upset vent their anger and many times just storm out, rather that doing what actually might change the entire VA healthcare system. Go and take the time to file a complaint with the Patient Advocates! If you encounter real and serious issues, and I am not talking about being upset because you had to wait another 10 minutes for an appointment, but issues that effect your health or greatly impact your life, keep a journal, write down the names of the employee’s at the VA, the date, time and every detail. Encourage other vets to do the same, take the time and speak with a supervisor or a an advocate, call the hospital administrator, if he/she has their secretary or assistant blocking you from contacting the administrator personally, then request to have an apppointment with the administrator to discuss your legitimate complaints. If you can’t or will not be seen by the people that you feel can make changes at your local VA then ask your Congressional Representative or Senator to arrange a meeting to be heard. The only way that I think that any change for the positive is going to come about is to formally let the VA manager’s know about it.Somewhere along the line every person that is employed by the Veterans Administration is accountable and has to answer to someone. Once you fall into the VA’s attitude of “we’re doing the best we can” or “that is the way it is”, then you have become part of the problem rather than the solution. Once you accept less then the very best possible care, you have become part of the problem. I have had so many more years of healthcare in my life from the civilian or private sector, if any or all of the horrible things that have happened to myself or others that I have seen then people would have lost their jobs or would be in court being sued. But vets and their families just take the attitude that this care is acceptable, until this changes the VA will never change. What truly upsets me is not mistakes as we are all human, but when people at the VA make mistakes and pass the blame to other’s or deny that a mistake was made. The prevalent attitude at the VAMC that I go to is that the VA employee’s feel that they are entitled to work there, that you the veteran should be honored to be treated there. When in reality it is the VA employee’s at the VA’s that are priveledged to have employment their, and it is your right that you have earned to receive treatment and care their. Then again what do I know, probably nothing since the VA has been screwing me over since day one, losing my claim, not even reviewing evidence in appeals and denying it and so on. But I have given up yelling and have seen changes by vets taking the time to speak with patient advocates and supervisor’s and the like.

  5. Th0mas Hudson November 22, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    Houston, Texas The countdown is now down to the wire. What will happen tomorrow to resolve this situation and to have effect on options available. We have been working hard to contact people within the VA hospital in Houston. Considering our lack of response the situation seems hopeless. We have learned that Mr. Hudson did receive a phone call from one of the highly respected and trusted doctors. That conversation is and will remain private. There remains serious issues regarding the misconduct and illegal acts of the police officer herein mentioned in our profile. The officer had denied a veteran emergency medical attention, practiced medicine without a license and knowingly used false information to obtain a warrant. When Mr. Hudson had mentioned to the officer that he had taken 25 sleeping pills and had two syringes loaded with insulin, which he is not diabetic, and then requested to see a doctor the officer had a legal along with a moral duty to provide medical attention. Considering that the event took place within a holding cell across from the emergency room the protocol is clear. Then, the same officer has recently harassed Mr Hudson for trying to bring attention to this situation. Mr. Hudson is a disable veteran and has to use a walker on some days. The officer prevented Mr. Hudson from using a city maintained sidewalk outside of the VA gates. Recently, the hospital had Mr Hudson to go before a committee to review his conduct. The meeting had focus on the issue of over a year ago pertaining to Mr. Hudson using up VA resources by calling the VA hotline. Mr. Hudson had went to great lengths to attempt a suicide. Understanding why Mr Hudson was feeling suicidal one would have to do a google search and research Carcinoid and depression along with Metastatic Carcinoid Cancer. Then one would have to understand that he has loss a wife and mother to death and that put him all alone. Within the last year Mr. Hudson has had to deal with a serious medical condition. In July he arrived home after being in the hospital to a breakin of his home. He was assaulted and felony warrants were issued for injury to disable. After that he had to endure a month long of threat, windows broken and threating him with calling the VA Hotline. Nearby the hospital he was again attack and damage was done to his colosomy and upon arrival to the VA emergency room he was denied attention because they were busy. He had to walk out with his stoma esposed and blood and fico material all over him. The situation goes on and on. Mr. Hudson has tried to handle the matter within the hospital. He, to this day brags about the good people that did helped him such as the chief of va police along with a social worker and a special doctor. However, the police abuse started back and the people in administration that had promised a meeting went back on their word. Mr Hudson suffers from great anxiety and that has increase do this matter. With all of this info what would anyone else do. He can’t get a meeting, died medical treatment and the administration denies help. This is the same administration that covers up illegal acts when the OIG had came back in march for a week. That is another matter. This is also the administration that knowingly allows false charting practices to continue. Mr. Hudson was hoping to have a fair hearing in this matter by the 23rd of November, tomorrow. Tomorrow is a very significant day for Mr. Hudson and a day that commitments had been made that brings this matter to a head. Therefore, the decision has been made to give everyone viewing what they signed up for. Just like in TV it is about ratings. You, the public will get to experience the final outcome of this saga. All of this could have been avoided if people on both sides had conducted matters differently. The VA needs to get out of the business of false advertisement when they state that if you are in an emotional or suicidal crisis to call 1-800-273 TALK if they are going to lure them into an emergency room waiting area just to put them in the county jail for telephone harassment. With the epidemic of suicide within the military today what does this speak to the new veterans when the Vietnam veterans are treated this way. Mr. Hudson has made it clear that he is so sorry for all of this and that he has high praises for the many people in the VA who do care about veterans.

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    about an hour ago · Like · 1 person

  6. Doug Noble November 19, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    Gary turn around and kiss your own ass butt wipe, Jason was disabled by VAMC’s staff who were charged with malpractice and Jason has paperwork saying he is to have the same benefits as if he were injured in service…and so he is the

    same as 100%

  7. Gary Crittenden November 17, 2010 at 8:12 am

    Why would you be eligible for CHAMPVA? That is a benefit for the FAMILY of 100% disabled veterans. I think you belong to the group that is not happyunless you are complaining.

  8. Jason Kahl November 15, 2010 at 9:45 am

    VA has not by any means earned ANY type of praise yet, I have nothing less than a complete nightmare dealing with VA. Twice I was told to wait months for appointments that was turned out to be emergency sugery
    I was denied entry into the spinal cord clinic by mistake, I was told it could take 3-4 months of writing back and forth to fix, I spent hours findng someone that knew this was a mistake and fixed it. Everytime I turn around it seems some little mistake turns everything on its head takes a HUGE fight to fix.
    VA has put me through a physical and emotional hell for over 20 months now and even when you do “get” the benefits someone else screws it up. I signed my family up for CHAMPVA, some pencil pusher did not read my letter correctly and denied my application. I sent my letter SHOWING I was authorized to be in the program(spent $30 in fax charges) only to find out that thats not good enough I have to wait for my regional office to send them a letter. I have spoke to everyone there is to talk to, I had people from DC to my VISN management look into whats been going on even they were horrified and apologized.
    Now I have a SAH housing modification grant I can’t use, my house is not modifiable. Some how I have to sell this house on this market and purchase a new house that CAN be adapted. In the mean time I am on my own, I will just have to hope I don’t fall in the mean time and cause even more damage.
    Now CHAMPVA mistakenly turned down my application, I faxed in my award letter showing I am athorized spent $30 doing it. CHAMPVA is now waiting on paperwork from my regional office, no one can tell me how long its going to take to fix this goof up.

    I know VA has worked for a few people, I have met Hundreds of people just like me those people know others that have gone through the same fight I have. I am disabled because of problems with in the VA, when I filed my 1151 claim citing delay in treatment and diagnosis, the doctor wrote “Negligence and Carelessness on behalf of the VAMC caused your disablity.”
    Even when I asked for adaptive equipment that would work off the sidewalk, I did not want to fight my wheel chair everywhere I go. I was told to “Learn to live with my limitations”.
    So I can not just stand by and NOT say anything, I can honestly say my dog has better healthcare than I do. I live in constant fear of what is going to be the next medical mistake or how horrible the next place is I get sent to. Please don’t taut how great VA is, NOT when this is STILL going on everyday……

  9. Walter Shockley November 14, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    When I entered the VA system 25 years ago, the system was broken. In the last eight years I’ve seen so many changes and advances in our care it is unbelievable.
    The new leadership has come forward and they are making health care happen for us, yes we do get upset and mad at VA, but are they the one we should be getting mad with, or is it the people we meet at the clinics and hospital.
    Are we mad at them because we do not think they are helping us, because they are follow their rules, and the rules are restricting us from what “we” think is right.
    We all have the feeling that we are the only one in the system, why are they so slow. Somewhere last week I saw a figure that puts me in a group of 300,000 and I like everyone else want to be first, on top of the list, taken care now.
    I do know that it cannot happen like that, but I have to keep reminding myself, I’m not the only one who wants service now. There are many others head of me, and they deserve to be.

  10. Mike M November 12, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    As a service connected disabled Veteran who initially filed my disability claim before Google was even a research project, I find it extremely encouraging to see the great strides VA is making on the Web.

    Craig Newmark’s comments in the post above are a testament to those efforts, and to the fact that VA is reaching out to private sector innovators in an effort to get it right.

    The fact that this Blog exists and other Social Media efforts by VA have been expanding are significant. They represent not only an important vechicle for telling the important stories VA wants to share with Veterans and their families, but a platform for receiving important feedback from them as well.

    The public’s perception of VA’s response mechanism and ability to implement change according to that feedback will determine if VA’s Social Media efforts are largely successful.

    Brandon and his team earn huge credibility points when they acknowledge that the reputation of VA has been forged not only by perceptions, but by Veterans’ actual past experiences with VA.

    Providing a platform for open and honest dialogue about the existence of real problems and the efforts to fix them might just make the Web the single greatest catalyst for positive change in the history of the VA.

  11. Trevor barger November 11, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Hopefully the blue button will be upgraded because the information you get right now it not very much. It will be a wonderful tool when you can access more information. It is limited right now on information.

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