New VA Secretary Sets Sights On Major Agency Reforms

Dan Verton | FedScoop | September 8, 2014

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald outlined for the first time Monday his strategic vision for a new, efficient and innovative VA that is no longer hamstrung by old-fashioned hierarchy and a complex maze of websites and systems that prevent veterans from accessing VA medical services.  The plan, which McDonald called the Road to Veterans Day during a press conference at VA headquarters, is the agency’s 90-day effort to correct major problems in VA’s processes and work environment and restore the public’s trust after a scheduling system scandal that saw dozens of veterans die while waiting to receive medical treatment.

“We’ll judge the success of all of these efforts against one single, unified metric. And that metric is, obviously, the satisfaction of the veterans we are trying to serve,” McDonald said.  Although the 90-day plan is designed to institute a series of quick measures the agency can rollout in the short-term to correct the biggest problems standing in the way of veterans accessing timely care, McDonald’s vision calls for a fundamental restructuring of VA as an agency and as a culture. McDonald referred to the approach as sustainable accountability — a top-to-bottom reform effort that deals with everything from training to corporate culture and website design.

“We are too complicated from the veteran’s standpoint,” McDonald said, referring to the nine different geographic regions that govern where veterans get their care around the country and the more than a dozen websites that veterans must navigate to access VA information.  “We want to reorganize to better align and simplify service to veterans,” he said. “Right now if you go to any Veterans Affairs website, you’ll find that there are 14 different websites that require a different user name and a different password for veterans to access the VA...