aside My Policy Wish For The USA, Part XV (Hope For The VA Could Be In Jeopardy)

7/13/16 S.3198 A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the provision of adult day health care services for veterans.
7/12/16 S.3170 A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for the removal or demotion of employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs based on performance or misconduct, and for other purposes.
7/11/16 S.3154 A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, in awarding a contract for the procurement of goods or services, to give a preference to offerors that…
7/7/16 S.3141 A bill to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a grant program to improve the monitoring of mental health and substance abuse treatment programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The above chart is a sample of bills being reviewed by the U.S. Congress. The source is the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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Sec. McDonald (L) of President Obama-Gen. Joe Robles (R), “MyVA”  Chair/ Photo by Pete Souza

Less than 2 years ago, a Procter & Gamble CEO, West Point graduate, and former Army Captain came on board as the VA Secretary. Bob McDonald, a republican was assigned the task of turning the scandal ridden entity around to better meet the needs of veterans. To date he has taken many steps to improve the delivery of service to our veterans.

My policy wish is for the VA Secretary, Bob McDonald along with the MyVA Advisory Committee Chairman, Generable Joe Robles, to receive the legislative support that they are asking for which is to push through their recommendations via the Veterans’ First Act, in order to transform the VA culture around to better meet the needs of our veterans; and that any attempt to continue to delay passage due to political reasons end.

FL. Republican Congressman Jeff Miller, supporter of Donald Trump
FL. Republican Congressman Jeff Miller, supporter of Donald Trump

Their requested legislation has been languishing in the U.S. Congress since May of 2016. Both leaders are asking that the VA transformation plans not be subject to election year politics. (For more on this, see the related article link below.)

An example of the politicizing of the VA is from a 7/19/16 Military Times article: “The chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and Donald Trump’s top veterans adviser (FL R-Jeff Miller) backed off his support for current Veterans Affairs Secretary, Bob McDonald.” The House Veterans’ Affairs Chairman, Mr. Miller is supporting Donald Trump for the U.S. presidency and his VA reform plan which was made public on 7/11/16.

Then in the U.S. Senate, there is republican Senator John McCain from Arizona who has been on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee for many years. It was during his watch that a whistle blower made public in 2014 the “wait time scandal” at the Phoenix, Arizona VA Hospital. Senator McCain is convinced that the VA system is too broken to fix. Thus around the end of April, 2016, he introduced the “Care Veterans Deserve Act” to compete with the bill that the VA Secretary and the MYVA Chairman General Robles are asking to be passed.  He is just plain wrong on this one.

The American Legion on their web site alleges that “Members of a congressionally appointed Commission on Care, many of whom are medical industry executives, are reportedly pushing lawmakers in Washington to support long-term plans to accelerate privatization of VA health care.”(Three out of eleven commissioners refused to sign off on the 300 page report.)

VA Sec. Bob McDonald
VA Sec. Bob McDonald

In order for the VA Secretary McDonald to successfully complete his mission to constructively overhaul the VA culture, he publicly stated in September, 2016 that he needs his recommended  suggestions. as listed in the current Omnibus Bill to be passed, as soon as possible. This requested legislation comes less than two years after the last veterans omnibus was passed by lawmakers in the wake of the wait times scandal. The Omnibus Bill, titled, “Veterans First Act” has been passed out of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, in a bipartisan manner during May of 2016. But now it is still sitting there in the gridlocked U.S. congress while the legislators claim to care about our military heroes.

On 4/28/16, Leo Shane III and Patricia Kime reported the following details in their Military Times article:

“The new omnibus–the Veterans First Act–would go along with a VA leaders’ request to be able to more easily hire and fire department senior executives, changing the employment policies to rules closer to private-sector contracts. It also includes a new office charged with protecting whistleblowers, with more oversight and reporting to Congress.”

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“On health care, the bill includes a massive expansion of VA’s program for caregivers of seriously injured veterans, which provides financial support, health benefits and other services for family members offering care.” 

Jim Myers of the Columbus Dispatch writes the following in the 9/1/15 article, “A chief urges Congress to pass bill to reform agency:”

“Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald wants Congress to pass a sweeping Senate reform bill to continue transforming his beleaguered agency that two years ago was engulfed in a scandal.”

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“But even though the proposed Veterans First Act emerged from the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee with unanimous support in May — a rare display of bipartisanship — the bill has remained stalled with no floor vote.”

“There’s no question we have more work to do to make sure the VA is delivering the best possible care to all veterans, which is why Congress should move forward on this bipartisan bill quickly,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, a member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.”

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“With so many (6 million regular users) relying on the system, the congressional clock continues to tick as McDonald warns that he will need time to get reforms in place before the Obama administration ends in January.”

“Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., the lead sponsor of the bill, is optimistic about its chances. However, after blowing through several self-imposed deadlines since May, he conceded that his plan for a quick and easy vote faces obstacles.”

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“New legislation that McDonald says costs nothing has been rolled out and can be added to the Veterans First bill later in the legislative process, a plan that Isakson supports.”

“In five years, veterans could have appeals resolved within one year of filing,” McDonald said.

“Amid the uncertainty surrounding the reform efforts in Congress, the congressionally mandated Commission on Care released a report that included a number of recommendations for the VA.” (This republican led effort, unveiled on 7/11/16 in VA. Beach is not supported by the American Legion. See link below.)

“McDonald embraced several of those and said that some are underway as part of the “MyVA” initiative designed to modernize the agency and turn it into veteran-centered service organization. McDonald said while in Cincinnati at the National Convention of the American Legion. We have challenges, yes. But VA can be transformed.”

GA. Republican Senator Johnny Isakson
Senator Johnny Isakson

(Source: 4/2/15 (Robert) Rivard Report, “Obama Taps Robles, Retired USAA CEO, To Lead VA Reform Initiative;” updated 10/7/16.)

“President Obama announced the formation of the MyVA Advisory Committee earlier this month (March 2015) during a visit to a VA medical facility in Phoenix. He was accompanied by Secretary of Veteran Affairs Bob McDonald, VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson and Robles. The leaders held a round table at the Phoenix VA hospital and met with veterans to hear their firsthand frustrations seeking medical services and their benefits.”

“It’s important that veterans know that somebody’s got their backs, and that, if there are problems, that we’re not being defensive about it, not hiding it.” — President Obama

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Sec. McDonald left center/ Gen. Robles Center Right

“Now it’s former USAA CEO and President Joe Robles Jr.’s turn to get back into the action. The retired Army Major-General Robles has agreed to serve as chairman of the Veterans Affairs Department’s newly formed MyVA Advisory Committee, an initiative to take one of the federal government’s worst performing bureaucracies and make it more service friendly.”

“General Robles will head a blue ribbon panel of former military leaders, business executives and health care experts. It’s a major undertaking and one that comes with serious risk of failure or at least frustration. No federal agency has proven less receptive to reform and modernization or more resistant to change.”

“Robles will chair a board with considerable firepower and will convene the group’s first meeting in April and thereafter meet every few months. Exactly how he and other committee members will tackle the VA’s long-entrenched problems remains to be seen.”

“The VA has been criticized as a paper-driven bureaucracy where records and claims often were lost or ignored for months, and where many veterans failed to win the agency’s attention unless their cases drew media attention. The committee’s mandate is to develop short-term and long-range goals to improve VA operations and services.”

clinton-150414005-myva-advisory-committee-meetingThe MyVA Advisory Committee:

  • Josue “Joe” Robles Jr. — Retired Army major-general,  USAA CEO (2007-15).
  • Michael Haynie — Vice-Chair of Syracuse University and Air Force veteran who direct’s the school’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families. Haynie will serve as vice-chair under Robles.
  • Herman Bulls — International director of Jones Lang LaSalle, a Chicago-based real estate investment firm with worldwide offices. Bulls is an Army veteran and a graduate of both the U.S. Military Academy and Harvard. He serves as a director of the West Point Association of Graduates and also is a director on the USAA board .

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  • Teresa Carlson — Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector, Amazon web services, and a former Microsoft executive and health care industry executive.
  • Dr. Richard Carmona — Former U.S. Surgeon General (2002-06) is a disabled Special Forces Vietnam veteran and a former high school dropout who went on to graduate from medical school. He is on the medical faculty at the University of Arizona.
  • Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove — CEO of the highly-regarded Cleveland Clinic, a former Air Force physician and Vietnam Veteran.
  • Dr. Laura Herrera — Maryland’s deputy secretary for public health served as a medical officer in the Army Reserve and acting deputy chief officer of patient care services in the Veterans Health Administration.
  • Chris Howard — Retired Air Force colonel, president of Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, and a board director of the American Council on Education.
  • Nancy Killefer — Senior director of the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., former Treasury Department official, and vice-chair of the Defense Business Board.

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  • Fred Lee — Speaker, former Disney executive and health care executive, and author of “If Disney Ran Your Hospital, 9½ Things You Would Do Differently.”
  • Dr. Eleanor “Connie” Mariano — “Filipina-American, retired Navy rear-admiral, founder of the Center for Executive Medicine. and White House physician for Pres. george H.W. Bush, the first women to hold the post.”
  • Jean Reaves — “Vietnam veteran, president of North Carolina’s AMVETS Service Foundation.”
  • Maria “Lourdes” Tiglao — “Founded the first critical care medical attendant team in the Pacific during her time in the Air Force, and now serves as a regional communications manager for the disaster response group Team Rubicon.”
  • Robert Wallace — “Vietnam veteran, works as executive director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and has worked in the banking industry and various positions in New Jersey state government.“

NOTE: This blog was updated on 10/19/16.

RELATED ARTICLES:

MyVA Cascadia | Putting Veterans First https://myvacascadia.com/ Jul 15, 2016 – Josue (Joe) Robles, Jr., former president and chief executive officer of USAA, … The MyVA Cascadia Board held a town hall meeting in Bend, OR …

Legion fights effort to privatize VA care | The American Legion  http://www.legion.org/veteranshealthcare/…/legion-fights-effort-privatize – July 5, 2016 … Members of a congressionally appointed Commission on Care, … that commission has developed what Barnett describes as a “straw man” …

14 comments

    • Dear Jill,

      DT and Congressman Jeff Miller cannot begin to compete with the likes of Bob McDonald who has invested tons of hours visiting VA hospitals, clinics, military groups to find out on a personal basis, what is really going on.

      One of the steps he has taken along with President Obama was to create a blue ribbon panel of top notch folks to be independent of the VA and himself, so that there is continuous oversight of the VA activities. It is called the MYVA Advisory Committee which is chaired by Ret. General Joe Robles, the former Chairman and CEO of USAA. I know on a personal level that he is great at listening to the rank and file folks and then getting things done. Bob McDonald has been President, CEO and then Chairman of Procter & Gamble. Both of these gentlemen have actually served in the military and the organizations that they are associated with, USAA and P & G are well run businesses, not like DT’s businesses. Both companies did well under their tenure. These are two older guys doing this job as a labor of love because they truly care about the vets and both are very competent.

      So this VA with its history of bureaucratic problems, finally has a couple of truly competent veterans at the helm with a real chance of transforming it, but this is being challenged by DT and cohorts in congress.

      To think that the likes of DT and Congressman Jeff Miller are playing politics with all their hard work is upsetting to me. Neither have served a day in the military and couldn’t begin to compete in the real business world with these leaders, Bob McDonald and Gen. Joe Robles.

      You are right on! Playing politics with the well being of our Vets just infuriates me.

      Hugs, Gronda

    • Dear Horty,

      What is worse is that DT has been very uncomplimentary towards the VA Secretary, Bob McDonald when he is absolutely clueless to what he has been doing. You know better than anyone, that the VA needs a transformation and to do this takes time. It hurts the VA to meddle with it for political reasons which has nothing to do with doing what is right for our veterans.

      From my heart, thanks a million times over for your support on this subject and for this reblog.

      Bunches of hugs, Gronda

  1. Gronda, this is frustrating. Two comments. First, when someone says they don’t want to make something political, they are about to make it political – take it to the bank. This is a no brainer.

    Second, as I mentioned in my email, before the Phoenix fiasco a couple of years ago, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senators John McCain and Bernie Sanders was voted down with its $64 Billion price tag with budget fixes and more doctors. Phoenix hit the fan and Congress said “How could you let this happen? This made some vet groups furious.

    Later in the summer, a $16 billion bill was passed at 1/4 the amount needed. Guess what? That missing $48 billion requested could have helped. And, Congress again says you are not doing enough to help vets.

    Keith

    • Dear Keith, You are so right.!

      It was a Phoenix VA doctor who retired and then went public with the wait times scandal around 2014.

      During a senate hearing (2014), I recall Senator McCain (AZ senator) giving the former VA Secretary Shinseki a hard time, when you know that in his position, that he was the recipient of several letters regarding the Phoenix VA problems.

      This time, there has been a genuine effort for transparency. If anyone can transform the VA, these two guys, VA Secretary Bob McDonald and the MYVA Chairman, Gen. Joe Robles, are up to the task. I would like to give them a real chance by not sabotaging their hard work and efforts with the usual political shenanigans.

      In the blog link above, the 7/14/16 MYVA Cascadia post, “Putting Veterans First, the author Phil Philpott reports. “Military Update: Before Donald Trump or House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) or a panel of health industry executives called this month for a leadership makeover to save VA healthcare, a separate committee of VA advisors asked critics this election year to stop ignoring an unprecedented transformation occurring across the Department of Veterans Affairs.

      “Veteran service organizations echo a similar message, noting, for example, that key parts of Trump’s 10-point plan to improve VA healthcare, unveiled Monday (7/11/16) in Virginia Beach, were embraced months ago by VA and are being implemented or awaiting new authorities or funding from Congress.”

      “In an era of bitter partisanship, politicians can shine no light on achievements by the opposition party, even on issues critical to veterans. The risk of such strategy, the MyVA Advisory Committee suggests, is that politics will steal momentum from real reforms, and return VA to crisis mode, even as candidates vow that their highest priority is to help veterans.”

      “In a phone interview, Robles and Haynie confirmed that their worry election-year politics and the Commission on Care report might derail current reforms had sparked the MyVA progress report months ahead a fall deadline.”

      “This is the political season and I know there’s a lot of pressure on a lot of people to make statements or take positions,” said Robles. “And we wanted to make sure it’s clear the direction we’re heading” on assessing VA.”

      Ciao, Gronda

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