When Secretary Bob McDonald took office he immediately set off on a series of engagements to regain trust with Veterans. He has visited dozens VA hospitals across the country and mandated all VA facilities conduct quarterly town halls to promote accountability and an open dialogue with Veterans.
When Bob gave out his personal cell phone number and e-mail address at a press conference, many dismissed it as a PR move. But, when he said he wanted to open up the VA culture, he meant it.
“I did that on purpose,” McDonald said with a smile at the Student Veterans of America National Conference. “I did because I want to demonstrate to the employees at VA how we need to think about our customers. We don’t hide from you. We want you to call us. We want to deal with your problems … and now we’re building that capability internally, so you might not always get an answer from me but somebody will try to help you out.”
Since then, hundreds of Veterans have called and e-mailed Bob. Sometimes he answers, sometimes his staff answers, but more importantly the Veteran gets an answer.
On Jan. 7, Reddit user CyberVictimizer posted to r/Veterans that her husband was having problems receiving care for his back pain. The VA doctor prescribed weight loss, but her husband claimed that he wouldn’t be able to lose weight until his pain subsided. A common plight for many people and Veterans. He wanted an MRI.
CyberVictimizer asked the Reddit Veteran community what could her husband do?
She received great advice ranging from using the Choice Act to consulting a Veteran Service Organization. Then user EatTheBankers responded “Sec McDonald’s personal cell# (513)509-8454. You can leave a message. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Two weeks later, CyberVictimizer posted UPDATE: VA hospital won’t perform necessary tests. Where do we go from here? She reported that she sent Secretary McDonald an e-mail and the VA clinic manager called her husband soon after to schedule him for the tests he requested. Problem solved.
This isn’t an exception. Many Veterans have expressed their surprise and excitement in the Veteran subreddit about similar experiences.
Reddit user xcdc802 shares his experience calling Secretary McDonald
While all Veterans are invited to call or e-mail Bob, there are several avenues that can be tried first.
- Speak to a patient advocate. These are VA employees whose sole mission is to address the concerns Veterans have with their health care. The patient advocates are listed on every VA hospital website.
- Request a different primary care physician. If your current physician doesn’t work for you, you should find someone who does.
- Consult with a Veteran service organization. These organizations are vital to the VA and Veterans because they have vast experience navigating the VA system.
- Tweet your question using the hashtag #VetQ. VA and Veteran service organizations monitor this hashtag to answer your questions.
- Use the Inquiry Routing & Information System (IRIS). This is the only secure way to ask personal questions. IRIS also has a list of frequently asked questions.
- Reach out to your local member of Congress.
- Search the Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors online handbook.
Veterans use r/Veterans to vent, share information and seek help using their Veteran benefits. It’s a great resource that exemplifies the best of our community.
Have you called or e-mailed Bob? How did it go? Let us know in the comments.