From presenting a long-awaited Purple Heart medal, to discussing economic development opportunities for Veterans in agriculture, to recruiting medical school students, to visiting with Gold Star families, VA Sec. Bob McDonald, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and others from the West Virginia congressional delegation spent the better part of two days last week meeting with Mountain State Veterans.

Purple Heart CeremonyThe visit began Thursday evening, Sept. 24, at the West Virginia Cultural Center with a presentation to a Veteran who served in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. McDonald, Manchin and secretary of the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance Rick Thompson joined state officials for a Purple Heart presentation to Willie Lewis, a former U.S. Army Sergeant who was held as a prisoner of war in Korea in 1953.

McDonald spoke of West Virginian’s willingness to serve in the military. Lewis, McDonald pointed out, “was a prisoner of war in Korea, but after he got out from being a prisoner of war re-enlisted and then served in Vietnam.”

The economic impact of the Veteran community was on the agenda for a working breakfast Friday, Sept. 25, in Charleston. The secretary and Sen. Manchin held a discussion with Veterans about agriculture initiatives in West Virginia, and the potential for agriculture in both alternative therapy and economic development. Following breakfast, McDonald delivered opening remarks at the Appalachian Addiction and Drug Abuse Conference before traveling with Manchin to a town hall meeting with more than 200 Veterans and National Guard members in Beckley.

McDonald told those in attendance at the town hall that one of the greatest challenges facing VA is an aging Veteran population. According to local media reports, McDonald said he’s been working to explain to Congress that “VA needs to build today for tomorrow’s aging veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

A recruiting visit was next on the schedule with students from the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, one of two stops Friday to speak directly with future health care professionals.

Huntington VAMC Town HallFriday afternoon, U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins joined Manchin and McDonald at the Huntington VA Medical Center for a series of events including a town hall meeting with employees, Veterans and community members.

After the town hall, representatives of West Virginia’s medical schools and hospitals, along with regional health care industry leaders sat down for a roundtable discussion on VA’s recruiting efforts. McDonald and the group discussed the best practices for recruitment of physicians and behavioral health care providers, and collaboration with medical schools and facilities.

From discussing to doing, the next stop for McDonald and the members of Congress was right next door to the Marshall University School of Pharmacy, where the secretary highlighted the many accomplishments of VA’s doctors and researchers.

“We invented the shingles vaccine in the past year, we’ve invented the nicotine patch, we did the first liver transplant, we did the first implantable cardiac pacemaker,” McDonald told the students.

“It was a VA nurse that came up with the idea of a barcode that connects patients with medicine. We did the first electronic medical record and we know more about post-traumatic stress than anyone else,” McDonald explained as he stressed the unique opportunities for those who work for the VA.

The final stop of the two-day trip was a visit with Gold Star families at Camp Dawson in Kingwood, West Virginia. The annual Gold Star retreat was held two days before Gold Star Mothers Day on Sept. 27, honoring the mothers of military members who died while serving America. Reflecting on the statewide swing, McDonald told the crowd his main goal for the visit was to listen to their needs.

“The important thing for me was to hear from West Virginia Veterans about what they want,” McDonald said. “We’ve made progress, but I’ll be the first to tell you, and our employees would be the first to tell you, that we’ve got a lot more progress to make.”


Below are pictures from the two-day trip to West Virginia. Photos courtesy of VA.

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5 Comments

  1. ronald burris October 2, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    While Mr McDonald is worried about caring for the aging Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, he still needs to worry about the Korean, Vietnam and Vietnam Era, Desert Storm/ Shield Veterans. He still hasn’t resolved their issues. I guess He wants to forget about those Veterans and go right into planning for the new Veterans in the Iraq and Afhganistan Wars which are far younger than the other Veterans Mr McDonald still needs to work on the Veterans Civilian Doctor Program for those Veterans being able to be seen by Civilian Doctor. This program lacks guidance and the Veterans are being messed over since they are told one thing by the doctor and another thing by VA. I am not part of this program but I still fight for other Veterans as all Veterans should fight for all. I am still waiting on claims I originally submitted in Sep 2011. I requested reconsideration on some but because I got the Alpha Disability Group to help me out, I believe VA is sitting on my claims because they are offended when Veterans go out to get assistance so they aren’t messed over. So don’t tell me about VA having positive attitude when helping Veterans. I have heard otherwise from other Veterans. Mr McDonald needs to be going around to each VA Center to see how they really are helping the Veterans. The Atlanta Veterans Regional Center is another location that needs an overhaul. They must have figured something since they no longer handle recieving paperwork for Veterans filing claims. I know Mr Chapman who I send a letter to several years ago and I’ve never recieved a response from Him. And I sent him a Certified Letter and Return Receipt Request and know He recieved my letter. That is the only way to know that they recieve records since they used to lose a lot of records. To my knowledge when Veterans were sending their records to Atlanta, whoever opened the packages up, if it didn’t pertain to them they trashed them. Or if they didn’t have their reference information on the letter they trashed them. They even trashed original request for Disability paperwork. And yet they still have personnel working there that was doing this but just didn’t get caught. Anyway, Mr McDonald has a lot more to do to get the VA to where it needs to be. He is too busy going around feeling good about himself but He doesn’t want to go out to the Veterans to see what we really think about VA. He doesnt’ want to know the truth.

  2. JACK L. HATCHITT October 2, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    WHY IS THERE NO MORE DERMATOLOGY DEPARTMENT AT THE KANSAS CITY VA? THE TURN OVER AMONG THE VA DOCTORS IS BEYOND BELIEF. WHY IS THIS AND WHAT CAN YOU DO TO CHANGE THIS COURSE.

  3. Michael Quintana October 2, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    I m so tired of them trying to justify the VA hospital here in Phoenix you go to people who will not say much about the hospital hell find the ones that have been abused find the ones who have the problems I have friends working in their and told me ITS THE SAME IT HAS NOT CHANGED AT ALL ….MOST OF THE WORKERS ARE STILL SCARED TO SAY SOMETHING and having to deal with it myself every time I need something…it is a real chore to get something done… and i can not see the fact that NOBODY NOBODY COULD SEE THAT THEY WOULD NEED A NEWER SYSTEM TO HANDLE THE AMOUNT OF INFOMATION THAT A HOSPITAL HAS…TELLING ME ITS THE SYSTEM WHEN WE KNOW THE MANAGEMENT WAS MANIPULATING SYSTEM THE WHOLE TIME you want people to swallow that hogwash …do you really think people are that NAIVE….see theirs a bunch of vets still waiting to see what happens to these people at the top …MEANING WE’RE STILL WAITING TO SEE IF JAIL SENTENCES WILL BE HANDED OUT … IF NOT YOUR A BUNCH OF LIARS PERIOD AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST YOUR BEING TAKEN CARE OF BEAUTIFULLY RIGHT THAT’S WHY THEIRS NO REASON TO WORRY ABOUT THE REST AS LONG AS YOUR GETTING YOURS.

  4. Michael Quintana October 2, 2015 at 11:53 am

    You can tell the VA sec McDonald to go PACK SAND I so tired of all the B.S. we are trying to get a handle on the situation it is more complex than what people can understand ….that’s the biggest [redacted] I have ever heard in my life….PERIOD…listen you bunch of dingle berries people have died because of the way the system is set up and no its not the computer system definitely not its the attitudes from the people in the system who do not want to disturb a good thing with all their lie’s about getting people into see the doctor….I see a problem its at the top PERIOD IT STARTS W/ MR VA SEC McDonald …. their are so many people good people looking for work and educated in the appropriate fields they need …FIRE THEM ALL FIRE THEM ALL (PUT THEM IN JAIL….NOT THE MARTHA STEWART PLAY HOUSE IN THE HARD CORE PRISON) and if they survive as they made vets do if they survive when they get out they NEVER NEVER EVER WORK FOR A GOVERNMENT JOB NEVER EVER let them go to a civilian office where they can abuse people,…veterans have already been abused by our very own government not wanting to give the benefits that were earned AND MR VA SEC McDONALD SHOULD KNOW THIS…ESPECIALLY HIM

  5. michael e flesher October 2, 2015 at 11:19 am

    Mr McDonald,please come visit St Petersburg, regional office at bay pines,and check efficiency of clearing cases,or the deficiency mostly. Thanks

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