In my first full day as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, I asked to tour the DC VA Medical Center so I could see first-hand how our healthcare professionals are caring for our nation’s Veterans during this pandemic.

I came away from that visit both inspired and impressed. From the medical support assistants working tirelessly to schedule COVID vaccinations to the pharmacists trying to get the maximum number of doses from every vial to the providers putting “shots in arms,” their dedication to excellence and their care for their Veterans was readily apparent at every turn.

It was particularly moving to hear that providers who have been working in the COVID-19 ward are now being afforded the opportunity to work in the vaccine clinic as a form of respite and renewal. Caring for COVID-19 inpatients in such an intense setting can be draining for the provider due to the severity of symptoms their patients face as well as the risk to their own lives. Giving vaccinations affords them the vital opportunity to “see the light at the end of the tunnel” after a long hard year.

VA Secretary Denis McDonough talks to employees at the DC VA Medical Center.

VA Secretary Denis McDonough talks to employees at the DC VA Medical Center.

My mother was a nurse and I’m acutely aware of the importance of what they bring to healthcare teams. So, seeing them in action and hearing from nurses about the joy and hopefulness that infuses the vaccination clinic brought a smile to my face. I’m so proud of all the hard-working VA employees whose dedication to mission has led to the department vaccinating over one million people, and I encourage Veterans to sign up and stay informed about how to get a vaccination.

Another important part of my visit was seeing the environment of care for women Veterans. I’ve made clear my commitment to ensuring VA is a welcoming place for all Veterans, especially survivors of Military Sexual Trauma.

During this visit, I got a tour of the Women’s Health Pavilion from Woman Veterans Program Manager Gale Bell, a Veteran herself and passionate supporter of women Veteran patients. I was able to see first-hand where VA is making tremendous strides in ensuring that goal is currently met, as well as where VA has room for improvement in the future.

While there, I also took the VA White Ribbon Pledge to stop violence against others and commit to never committing, excusing, or staying silent about sexual harassment, sexual assault, or domestic violence. I urge all VA leaders who have not yet taken the pledge to do so promptly.

VA Secretary Denis McDonough takes the White Ribbon VA pledge.

VA Secretary Denis McDonough takes the White Ribbon VA pledge.

My entire leadership team is expected to lead by example through thoughts, words, and actions, as well as to ensure all employees live up to these principles and follow VA policies related to equal opportunity, diversity and inclusion, and sexual harassment.

The dedicated professionals I met deepened my pride at having the opportunity to lead the department during this time of great challenges and opportunities. They are highly skilled professionals—many of them Veterans themselves.

I am honored and humbled to be their partner and to join them all in serving and advocating for all our nation’s Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors.

The Honorable Denis McDonough is the 11th Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

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Published on Feb. 12, 2021

Estimated reading time is 2.9 min.

Views to date: 254


  1. KATRINA THOMAS March 6, 2021 at 9:10 am

    I am myself like most VA family members requesting (no begging) you to please loosen the restrictions On the VA CLC’s or at least allow for reopening for those who have had NO positive Covid tests amongst patients or staff members. My husband suffers from dementia related to PTSD and I have not seen him in over a year now. I have watched his mental health decline severely since the closure. I have been able to see him via Zoom however since he cannot communicate Verbally this has basically been for my benefit and not his. I also believe that since the physical touch is not there it has participated in the decline and confusion. Of his mental well-being. Since most veterans have been vaccinated at this facility and there has been no positivity for Covid there I don’t believe that this is accomplishing anything. There is no reason why if staff members are allowed to come and go we as family should be able to do the same thing and be able to take the same precautions as staff members prior to a visit. This facility is part of the VA Palo Alto healthcare system in California and located in Menlo Park California. PLEASE re-open it for visits.

  2. Ann Kirkman March 2, 2021 at 8:03 pm

    I left a comment but I do not see it! Ann Kirkman

  3. Lela Ann Kirkman March 2, 2021 at 6:50 pm

    I really wish you would Visit Salisbury VAMC CLC to see how things are. I have been begging to see my husband for a long time. They have moved the vets in that area out of their rooms and said they would move them back about 3 weeks ago is what I heard on the Conference Call. That has not happened. My husband has suffered mentally not being allowed to see his family. He is a Purple Heart Recipient severely wounded in Vietnam. He worked at the VA Regional Office in WSNC until he retired. I have asked numerous people there for a visit with him. I have had the vaccines and he has as well. I am told that they can’t and it is due to “higher ups”. What a shame it is to treat a veteran where they cannot see their family for almost a year. I would of course be tested, etc. I have sent an email to my President and to Dr. Biden. I have called every agency I have heard of asking for help for my husband- Would you please help him and allow a visit. He thinks we have deserted him.
    Thank You
    Ann Kirkman wife

  4. Joe Knobo February 19, 2021 at 6:18 pm

    Actually, he is only the second non-Veteran to serve as Secretary…..but don’t let facts get in the way of personal thoughts.

  5. Alrighty Then February 12, 2021 at 8:10 pm

    Not even a veteran! And not a doctor either!!

    What a crock of total crap!!!

    • Chris February 16, 2021 at 11:21 am

      Neither were most previous Secretaries, but don’t let facts get in the way of personal thoughts.

  6. joseph p ratowski February 12, 2021 at 12:27 pm

    va sec mcDonough would u pls look into the outdated va disability and compensation program also more inclusive on the va rating system tks mr joe ratowski

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