Posts

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.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Military Connection: VA Memo to Employees: By Debbie Gregory

VA memoEarlier this month, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald sent a memorandum out to all VA employees, concerning the future of the VA and how he intends to implement reform within the troubled system.

Sec. McDonald’s message began by explaining how he has gone about his intelligence gathering. He explained that by hearing from Veterans and family members who receive the care that the department provides, he was better able to understand what and where efforts within the VA need to be ramped up. The VA head said that feedback from more than 2,000 VA employees from 20 facilities that provide healthcare service to more than 1.4 million Veterans has helped to shape the manner in which the VA system can retool its organizational functional practices to better serve Veterans.

The secretary asked for the cooperation of all VA employees to help with their shared mission to make the VA system easier to navigate for Veterans. McDonald said that he and all VA employees should purse a shared goal of ensuring that Veterans have a “clear understanding of VA and where to go for what they need within any of our facilities…”

In order to accomplish this goal and other reforms within the VA, Sec. McDonald laid out the following plan:

1)      Establish a new VA-wide customer service organization to provide top-rated customer service to Veterans.  McDonald plans to implement a new office for a Chief Customer Service Officer who will report directly to the VA Secretary.  The duties of this new position will be to drive VA culture and practices to understand and respond to the expectations of Veteran customers.

2)      Establish a single regional framework that will simplify internal coordination, enhance customer service and facilitate partnering. This collaborative effort within the VA will allow Veterans to more easily navigate the VA system without having to understand the bureaucratic structure of the department.

3)      Establish a national network of Community Veteran Advisory Councils to coordinate better service delivery with state and local community partners.

4)      Realign the VA’s internal business processes into a shared services model in which organizations across the department leverage the same support services, to improve efficiency, reduce costs and increase productivity.

McDonald also mentioned the activation of the Idea House website on Veterans Day. The website is intended to function as an electronic suggestion box where VA employees can submit their ideas and proposed solutions based on the challenges they see within their work environment.

This is a wonderful opportunity to greatly improve the VA system for the betterment of current Veterans, as well as for future generations of Veterans to come. Everyone in the Veteran community, as well as those who care about the Veteran community will be watching the VA secretary’s actions with apprehension and anticipation. As a people united, we all hope to see Veterans receive the best care available.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: VA Memo to Employees: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: VA Secretary’s Letter to Vets: By Debbie Gregory

sec mcdonaldThe U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been undergoing a tremendous transformation. It is the hope of every Veteran and every American who cares for Veterans that the changes currently being made within the department will improve the efficiency and quality of service for the men and women who served their country in uniform.

Back in August, the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (commonly referred to as the “Choice Act”) was signed into law. The implementing of the Choice Act and other Veteran-centric legislation is paving the way for rapid long-term improvements to the VA and its healthcare system (VHA) and benefits department (VBA).

The VA’s Secretary, Robert McDonald, has been given the task of ensuring that all of the appropriate reforms are put into place. McDonald recently issued an open letter to America’s Veterans that maps out his plans to implement VA reform under the Veterans Choice Program.

The letter talks about how the VA has signed contracts with two private health care companies to assist with administering the Veterans Choice Program. As required by law, the Veterans Choice Program is in effect as of November 5, 2014, and allows some Veterans to receive healthcare in their local communities, rather than traveling to a VA facility, or waiting for a VA appointment. The VA has created a call center that is now operational, in order to answer any questions and verify eligibility for this program. The call center can be reached by dialing 1-877-222-VETS (8387). Additional information can be found on the VA’s web portal on the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act.

Sec. McDonald’s letter addresses the issuing of Veterans Choice Cards to all Veterans who are eligible for the benefit. The Choice Card will allow Veterans to elect to receive care outside of VA facilities when they qualify for the program. Qualification is either based on the distance of their residence from a VA care facility, or when the wait times for care at a VA facility exceed the standards established by law. The Choice Card does not replace the VA identification card already in use to access other VA benefits.

The letter explains that the Choice Card will be issued to eligible Veterans in three phases. The first group of Choice Cards, along with a letter explaining eligibility for the program were already sent to Veterans who may live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA facility. The next group of Choice Cards and letters will be sent shortly thereafter to Veterans who have been waiting for an appointment for more than 30days from their preferred date, or the date determined to be medically necessary by their physician. The third group of Choice Cards and letters will be sent between December 2014 and January 2015 to the remainder of all Veterans enrolled for VA health care who may be eligible for the Choice Program in the future.

It appears that Sec. McDonald is taking his responsibilities seriously, and not just offering lip service. Let us hope that reform continues to sweep across the VA and improve the delivery of healthcare and other benefits to Veterans.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: VA Secretary’s Letter to Vets: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Newest Push to End VA Backlog: By Debbie Gregory

sep 16In an effort to improve care for all Veterans, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has set a goal to eliminate the appointment backlog by the end of 2015. In the latest efforts to accomplish this goal, VA secretary Robert McDonald announced that the department plans to increase the range of pay for its health care professionals.

Secretary McDonald told the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs Convention that more facilities, more employees and better pay for providers are the keys to solving the appointment wait-time problems that have plagued the VA for years.

The VA is hoping that a more competitive pay scale could sway top-of-their-field doctors to work for the VA instead of private hospitals around the country. Hiring the best would mean better and more efficient care for our nation’s Veterans.

The VA has also been reaching out to Veterans who are already on the waiting list, and attempting to set up appointments for them within the VA healthcare system or private healthcare facilities. As of the beginning of this month, the Veterans Health Administration has reached out to more than 240,000 Veterans in order to get them appointments, reducing the electronic waiting lists by 57%.

While the VA is making efforts to improve the situation, expansions take time, and the Veteran population is growing. The down-sizing of the entire U.S. Military is rapidly separating approximately 250,000 VA healthcare-eligible Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan each year.

Only time will tell if all of these new initiatives and expansion efforts will turn the VA around completely. But at least for now, the VA has halted on its course to total ruin and is coming about onto a new heading. With any luck, it will be full-speed ahead for eliminating the appointment backlog in 2015.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Newest Push to End VA Backlog: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: VA to Integrate Web Systems: By Debbie Gregory

VA websitesThis week, the U.S. Department of Veterans (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald unveiled plans to launch a digital services team within the VA.

The VA secretary claims that the VA holds too many separate websites, which all require separate ID’s and passwords. Mr. McDonald’s sentiments are that this is confusing for Veterans, and counter-productive to providing timely information and benefits to the Veteran community. At a press conference on September 8, 2014, Secretary McDonald criticized the flaws in the current set of VA systems, and announced his plan to create a new, one-login system.

“Right now, if you go to any Veterans Affairs website, you”ll find that there are 14 different websites that require a different username and a different password for veterans to access the VA,” Secretary McDonald said. “That”s just flat wrong.  We”ve got to make it easier for the veteran to access the VA through one website, one username, one password.”

Currently, the VA has entirely separate websites and logins for its different administrations and separate benefits offerings. The programs are run independently from one another, and their websites reflect the divergence. Many Veterans have complained about getting tangled in the web (www) while searching and applying for VA benefits.

To improve the process, the VA intends to recruit and hire “the nation”s top technologists to partner with us in building and delivering world-class, cost-effective digital services to our Veterans.”

Along with the digital services team, McDonald also said that the VA needs to create a centralized information technology system.

“I think we all agree it”s better to have one IT system across the department than to have Balkanized IT systems,” McDonald said.

Additionally, the VA secretary also called for a geographic reorganization of the department’s benefits and burial operations.

“If you looked at the structure of VA, you would find that we have nine different geographic maps for how we”re organized geographically,” McDonald said. “Every part of the VA has a different geographic map, a different hierarchical structure.  We”re going to be looking at: How do we reorganize the VA so that when the veteran looks at the VA, the veteran knows how to connect and how to get things done.  We are too complicated from the veteran”s standpoint.”

The move away from a paper and snail mail system in favor of online applications and programs has improved the expediency of claims by leaps and bounds. Now that the systems are fully in place, it makes sense for Secretary McDonald to update those systems in order to create the most comprehensive and efficient system for our nation’s Veterans.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: VA to Integrate Web Systems: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: More Vets Getting Private Care: By Debbie Gregory

VA healthcareThe U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been significantly increasing Veterans referrals to private doctors, following the scandal over unacceptable patient wait times at numerous VA facilities and the allegations of falsified appointment records.

The VA’s reputation has been damaged by claims that multiple Veterans had died while waiting for treatment from the VA healthcare system. Some VA employees have been accused of covering up scheduling blunders. The scandal ultimately led to the resignation of formerVA Secretary Eric Shinseki and the eventual appointment of Robert McDonald.

Since the scandal broke, the VA has made nearly 840,000 referrals for Veterans to receive care from private doctors. This is an increase of over 166,000 referrals from the same period last year.

A $16.3 billion VA overhaul was recently signed into law by President Barack Obama.  Approximately $10 billion is being allotted to pay private healthcare providers to treat Veterans who can’t get timely appointments at their local VA facility. The law also includes $5 billion to hire more doctors and other medical and mental health professionals.

At the National American Veterans (AMVETS) convention, McDonald told a group of Veterans that 1,000 new doctors, nurses and clerks were needed at the Phoenix VA hospital alone. And another 500 new doctors, nurses and clerks were needed at the VA facility in North Las Vegas.

“Until we get systems up to capacity, we’re expanding our use of private care and other non-VA health care to improve access for Veterans experiencing excessive wait times,” McDonald told the Veterans at the convention. “And we’re monitoring non-VA care to ensure Veterans receive the best that they deserve.”

The VA spent about $4.8 billion last year on medical care at non-VA healthcare providers. This factored to be about 10% of the health care costs for the Veterans Health Administration, the agency’s healthcare arm.

McDonald’s appearance at the AMVETS convention was part of a tour that has included stops at the Phoenix VA hospital, a disabled veterans’ convention in Las Vegas, and the VA’s Memphis medical complex.

With adequate funding from the government, vigilant attention from the new VA secretary, and the support of the American public, Veterans can look forward to significant improvement to the VA healthcare system and their privatized care through the VA.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: More Vets Getting Private Care: By Debbie Gregory

&nbsp,

Military Connection: New VA Sec. Confirmed: By Debbie Gregory

VA SecOn July 29, 2014, the Senate unanimously confirmed Robert McDonald as the next Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

By a vote of 97-0, the Senate approved President Obama’s nomination to head the VA. McDonald is tasked with the duty of repairing the integrity, efficiency and reputation of the VA.

McDonald takes over for Acting-Secretary Sloan Gibson, who has been temporarily running the VA since Gen. Eric Shinseki resigned on May 30th. The VA has been inundated by criticism in regards to the long wait-times for Veterans to receive healthcare, and the substantiated reports of employees conspiring to cover up the wait-times.

Hailing from Cincinnati, 61 year old McDonald is the former CEO of Procter &amp,amp,amp,amp, Gamble. As VA Secretary, he will be expected to address the short-cummings and  outright failures of the department. McDonald vowed to transform the VA, and said that improving Veterans’ access to healthcare will be a top priority for him.

Lawmakers, Veterans and Veteran advocates have all stated their agreement that McDonald faces a colossal task as VA Secretary. Not only will Sec. McDonald be expected to create transparency and accountability within the VA system, but he also faces the scores of other uphill battles that the VA is fighting.

The VA is still working to eliminate homelessness among Veterans, and to decrease its lengthy claims backlog. McDonald may receive aid for these bouts in the form of an estimated $17 billion VA reform bill that is expected to pass in Congress this week.

But even after Congress passes a bill, be it this summer ****or**** in the fall, McDonald is inheriting a VA that is coping with an intolerably high Veteran suicide rate, as well as scores of claims from wounded Veterans, including PTSD and those coping with sexual assaults.

McDonald has reported his plan to include improving communication within the VA, which includes more than 300,000 employees in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. As part of this plan, McDonald said that he will host frequent video conferences with employees, and travel to field offices around the country.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: New VA Sec. Confirmed:   By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Next VA Sec Addresses Congress: By Debbie Gregory

mcdonald

Robert McDonald, President Obama’s nominee to be the permanent secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) addressed Congress on July 22, 2014. During his meeting with the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, the future head of the VA vowed to transform the department, agreeing that systematic failures in transparency, accountability, integrity, and patient access to healthcare must be addressed.

“The seriousness of the moment demands urgent action,” McDonald told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. “There is a lot of work to do to transform the department and it will not be easy, but it is essential and can be achieved.”

McDonald is perfectly positioned to address these issues.  The former CEO of Procter &amp,amp,amp,amp, Gambleis an Army Veteran, and his father served in the Army Air Corps.  McDonald’s father-in-law was prisoner of war during WWII. McDonald also shared that he has a relative who was exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam, and receives care from the VA, and his nephew is in the Air Force, currently deployed in the Middle East. Due to his own Veteran status and the care that his family members receive from the VA, McDonald would be vested in the quality and timeliness of the department he would be entrusted with overseeing.

If confirmed, McDonald plans to implement a Veteran-first vision for the department. His plan includes frequent video conferences with VA employees, and extensive travel to field offices around the country.

Sources say that McDonald’s confirmation is all but assured, as lawmakers from both parties have voiced their approval for McDonald’s nomination.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard &amp,amp,amp, Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Next VA Sec Addresses Congress: By Debbie Gregory