McDonald Promises Veterans Same-day Appointments for Health Care

same day

By Debbie Gregory.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald has made a lofty promise to Veterans: by December, they will have same-day access to primary care appointments and mental health services at the VA.

McDonald, who was hired in the wake of a scandal over appointment wait times that led to the resignation of then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, spearheaded a massive restructuring of the VA in 2015.

“You’ve heard many times hat VA is broken. So I’ll answer one question: Can the Department of Veterans Affairs be fixed? Can it be transformed? The answer is yes. Absolutely. Not only can it be transformed, transformation is well underway and we’re already seeing results,” he said.

The MyVA reform effort is designed to overhaul the VA’s administrative practices and improve services, including disability claims processing, health care and outreach to homeless veterans.

McDonald talked at length about improvements to the veteran experience, including changes to the VA’s website and phone number, making it a “one-stop shop for information rather than asking veterans to navigate a complicated system.”

A new mobile app, which McDonald said would be launched by the end of the year, will allow veterans to make, reschedule and cancel appointments without having to call someone or leave the house.

McDonald said the department has added to its staff in the last several years, and the claims backlog, which had about 600,000 more than 125 days old, has been reduced by about 90 percent. He said the department has more people, more space, more productivity and more choice for veterans.

He also said that under the guidance of Undersecretary of Health Dr. David Shulkin, the VA is changing its approach to treating patients.

“VA health care is ‘whole-veteran’ health care — body, mind and soul, customized to meet veterans needs. Yoga? Acupuncture? Sports therapy, music therapy, writing and art therapy? We validate and embrace what works to heal veterans,” McDonald said.

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Military Connection: VA Creates Committee of Experts to Improve MyVA

General Robles

By Debbie Gregory.

On March 13, 2015, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the formation of the MyVA Advisory Committee (MVAC). The MVAC was designed to bring together specialists from the private, government and non-profit sectors to assist with streamlining the VA to better meet the needs of Veterans. The MVAC will be responsible for advising the VA Secretary, specifically in the areas of improving customer service, Veteran outcomes and setting the course for long-term reform.

The MVAC will meet multiple times throughout the year, engaging in periodic reviews of VA programs and policies in order to ensure the department is achieving the goals of MyVA.  The committee will provide guidance on completing both short-term and long-term strategies for improving the operational functions, services, processes and outputs of VA programs. The committee will also recommend appropriate levels of support and funding that would be needed to achieve MyVA objectives. The MVAC will also review implementation of recommended improvements, and suggest any necessary course corrections.

The MVAC will be led by Major General Josue “Joe” Robles Jr. U.S. Army (retired), who will serve as the committee’s chairman. General Robles served in the Army for 28 years and then went on to hold the position of President and CEO of USAA.The committee members all have high level degrees of experience in corporate management and healthcare. Most of the members are Veterans, but all have a strong belief in providing the best care and services for those who served their country.

“The success of MyVA will be Veterans who are better served by VA, so the work of this committee is incredibly important,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald.  “The collective wisdom of our committee members is invaluable and each of them understands that VA must improve customer service and focus the Department on the needs of our Veterans. They are dedicated to that mission and I am grateful for their principled service to our Veterans.”

Putting together a team like this is sure to yield positive results for the MyVA program, ultimately leading to better delivery of services, benefits and care to Veterans.

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Military Connection: VA Forms Committee of Experts to Improve MyVA: By Debbie Gregory