Fixing the Veterans Affairs Department will take an unprecedented culture change in the agency, but it will give the VA an opportunity to overhaul the failing system, newly-confirmed VA Secretary Robert McDonald said at an Aug. 13 speech at the AMVETS National Conference in Memphis, Tennessee.
McDonald laid out the major problems facing the VA, including veterans waiting too long for care, performance metrics becoming an end in themselves, poor leadership, no accountability for poor performing managers and an antiquated scheduling system.
But even knowing the problems, it won’t be easy to fix them, McDonald told the AMVETS crowd.
“Now, we can’t tackle all these issues long-term without unprecedented and critical cultural change and accountability,” he said. “And I think there are already seeds of that happening, perhaps in some unprecedented ways.”
McDonald said Congress is actually ready to act on VA reform, which can be seen by the fact that it only took 30 days from confirmation to swearing in for him to take his position as the new VA secretary. The floor vote on the Senate was 97-0.
“That’s not a commentary on me,” McDonald said. “It’s a clear sign of a nation’s extraordinary commitment to Veterans.”
McDonald has been touring the country talking to workers at VA hospitals and says the problem isn’t relegated to one facility, it’s systemic.
“When I visited the Medical Center in Phoenix, I kept hearing an unfortunate nickname–‘epicenter,'” McDonald said. “But the problems we discovered in Phoenix were systemic, extending well-beyond that one location and that one moment in time.”
– read VA Secretary McDonald’s speech