VA Secretary Robert Wilkie discusses recent VA accomplishments



Coping with crisis and emergency situations is nothing new to VA. We trace our birth back to the Civil War, when an exhausted President Lincoln called on America to care for everyone who took up arms in that bloody battle. VA evolved in leaps and bounds when World War II called for a nationwide system to care for the men and women who liberated Europe and the Pacific. In 2020, VA faced a very different kind of crisis in the form of COVID-19, and it became VA’s responsibility once more to see our Veterans through it.

Many would agree that VA probably wasn’t up to this task just a few short years ago, after VA leaders were caught misrepresenting Veterans’ access to health care. Morale within VA was low, and polls showed most Veterans didn’t think very much of a bureaucracy that was failing them. Six years ago, a CNN poll showed that just 37% of Americans approved of VA’s performance.

But over the last few years, VA was reborn. Today our approval rating stands at about 90% for health care, and among our fastest growing population – women – we have an 86% approval rating.

Morale soared. From 2014 to 2016, VA was near the bottom of federal agencies in a survey of best places to work in the government. Now VA is sixth, and we expect to be fifth when new numbers come out in March.

We did it by listening to our employees and the Veterans we serve. I visited every state in the union and nearly every territory to talk to Veterans.

Veterans had been demanding options outside of VA care for years, and we delivered real, permanent choice to them through the MISSION Act. Now, millions of Veterans are getting care right in their communities and are finally at the center of their own health care decisions.

Giving Veterans choice didn’t mean the end of VA. Instead, we made VA more accountable and empowered VA staff to once more live up to the legacy of this department, and they rose to the occasion.

Recent studies show VA measures up to the private sector on access and quality.

Veterans liked what they saw and started voting with their feet. VA completed a record number of appointments in fiscal year 2019 – 59 million! – the same year the MISSION Act took effect. The more Veterans we served, the more Veterans trusted us. Trust in VA care hit a record high in April 2020.

VA achieved what all the experts in Washington said was impossible by rolling out a modernized health record that will make it easier than ever for health professionals to access Veterans’ medical history. No longer will Veterans have to lug boxes of paper records around, as my father did after serving in Vietnam.

We turned VA into a more welcoming place for women Veterans. VA now provides a full range of services for women Veterans and has a military sexual trauma coordinator at each of its medical centers.

We put staff, patients and visitors on notice that we have a zero-tolerance policy for sexual assault and harassment. Our ongoing campaign aimed at preventing these incidents is just one way of making a difference – another is the growing number of women we have in leadership roles who oversee our employees, 63% of which are women.

VA has tackled some of the most chronic problems facing Veterans with renewed energy. VA is working with states to reduce Veterans’ use of harmful opioids, which fell 48% over the last four years.

We’re working with local governments and companies to end Veteran homelessness. And VA is leading the effort not only to end Veteran suicide, but to begin a nationwide dialogue to prevent this tragedy among all Americans.

By the time COVID-19 hit, VA was a different organization than the one you read about in 2014 – we were ready for this mission. While the virus was a serious threat to many non-VA nursing homes, VA’s early actions to protect its most vulnerable patients resulted in far fewer infections at the homes we manage. We also used telehealth to keep in touch with patients at a time of social distancing.

VA’s performance during the crisis was so strong that 1,000 VA staff members deployed on more than 3,700 missions to assist non-VA health networks, including those that serve Native Americans.

VA has tested more than 1.3 million people for the virus and treated more than 125,000 Veterans. As of January 4, 2021, VA had administered more than 146,000 initial vaccine doses to Veterans and health care employees just a few weeks after it became available.

Before 2016, VA was falling short of Lincoln’s promise. Today, thanks to thousands of dedicated employees across the nation, VA has undergone the most transformational change seen since the end of World War II, and emerged from that process with renewed strength.

As a result, VA is now closer than ever to fulfilling the vision Lincoln had for our brave men and women who wear the uniform.

Author

Robert Wilkie

The Honorable Robert L. Wilkie was sworn in to serve as secretary of Veterans Affairs on July 30, 2018. He also served as the acting secretary of Veterans Affairs from March 28, 2018 to May 29, 2018.

Before confirmation as VA Secretary, Mr. Wilkie served Secretary James Mattis as his Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness—the principal advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense for Total Force Management as it relates to readiness, National Guard and Reserve component affairs, health affairs, training, and personnel requirements and management, including equal opportunity, morale, welfare, recreation, and the quality of life for military families.

Comments

  1. Nancy Craig    

    I truly hope our new VA leader can do what he has high hopes for. I have to say that I have been seeing a VA Psychiatrist for many years now. I have documented PTSD due to sexual trauma and numerous physical disabilities as a result of my active duty service. I am now 100% unemployable and receiving pay from the VA for those disabilities.
    The VA’s idea of psychiatric care is a 20-30 minute appointment every 4 months (3 months if you insist). Since Covid came along, the appointments are via phone for about 10-15 minutes. I have had 2 phone appointments in the past year. It’s like a big, sad joke.
    I have been trying to tell my shrink for the past 2 years that my meds no longer work for me. Nobody is listening. I understand why those 25 Vet suicides a day happen. It all just seems hopeless, with no end in sight. Say a prayer for the veterans who need it.

  2. Steven Peterson    

    This guy is a joke, Hes the type of guy to pat himself on the back after someone dies. Example, I have lukemia this is the guy who made policy to make sure every room is max capacity even when they have free/open rooms. in jan and feb of 2020 I was put into a room with 3 people all suffering from covid while i was being treated for cancer.

  3. Paul Deitenbeck    

    It seems a bit weird that I can be sent to and treated by a non VA Dentist, but the VA dentist can’t see patients. How do you explain that. Non VA health providers can see and treat patients but the VA is basically shut down. How I know the VA medical stall that does or was treating us are absolutely great and deserve our thanks. the Administrative staff have not improved since the prior scandals’ came to light. The VA needs to get rid of all the top administrative staff and hire capable and caring administrators. Administrators who are less concerned about themselves and more concerned about the Veterans. Your patting yourself on the back is a little sickening. Stop praging and get the job done.
    Paul H D
    +

    1. Aileen Dodge    

      OH, I totally agree with this. But I would add that the Mission care act needs to go. This whole get a consult sent from your PCP, and the VA will approve it and send it to the community care department. They will contact the patient to sent up an appointment with an authorized Doctor within the Healthcare system that the VA contracted with to provide healthcare services for Veterans outside of the VA. (OPTUM) That whole system is BS. The reason some Veterans wanted care outside of the VA had to do with how far the Veteran had to travel to receive that care. Sometimes community care cannot find an OPTUM Doctor located within the Veterans community, which then makes the whole reason for the original PCP consult BOGUS. Since the Veteran will have to travel outside of the community, they live in to see the specialist. Try to explain this to the people who work in community care! They don’t understand, they don’t try to understand, and don’t want to hear about it. They just want to know if you want to set up an appointment with this specialist located over 40 minutes from your home!!! Before the Mission Care Act, Veterans who could not travel the distance to VA health facilities could see doctors within their communities and have their doctors bill the VA. What seems to me to be the usual routine for all Government agencies is to never review any policies that could lead to cutting out the middle man!!! In other words, never review a policy that knowingly could lead to a much more cost-effective and efficient way to do business. And Secretary Wilkie is so OUT OF TOUCH with the REALITIES of WHAT REALLY IS HAPPENING in the REAL WORLD of VETERANS. This bureaucrat BELIEVES EVERYTHING HE READS!!! But when is the last time he actually went out and ACTUALLY EXPERIENCED for himself the REALITIES OF A YEAR IN THE ADVERAGE VETERAN’S LIFE? How about NEVER!!!!!

  4. Lyle Davis    

    when can I get the corona shot ? Lyle Davis.

    1. Henry Deshaies    

      no news or scheduled appt for the COVID vaccine on a vet is is 73 with heart disease and who had COVID. How soon will I get an appointment.

  5. Victor Cicconi    

    I thank God for what you have done for me. You and the team at the VA save my life.

  6. James Smith    

    When are Veterans going to get the vaccine? I’m a 74 yr. old disabled vet and don’t see much concern or planning!

  7. Gary Bressler    

    I’m sorry but I personally don’t have the optimistic attitude that you think all veterans have. I personally don’t have a warm and fuzzy feeling and feel that the service I’m receiving is not in my best interest. I call the nurses line and they recommend I go to the emergency room and when I get there, the ER Doctor says he can see there’s something wrong, but he can’t figure it out and says to come back after someone calls me to schedule an appointment, which gets scheduled two weeks away. I once had a skin problem that nobody could figure out for months and finally I get scheduled to see a dermatologist, which also took 4/5 months out. After see the dermatologist, he said he had no clue what was wrong. There are other incidents that I don’t have time to explain.

  8. STEPHEN MAGUIRE    

    I’m looking but I don’t see any credit given to President Trump !! Is the “hate Trump ” scenario part of your administration ? I am a 20 year Army veteran and I have used the VA many times. However I am elated to report that VA services have been elevated to excellent in the last 4 years. President Trump said he would improve our VA experience and he has kept his word !! To 74 million people he was a great President.

    1. Chezlow Yezz    

      I agree with your assessment regarding President Trump and the improved VA care during his tenure.

  9. ROBERT ROSEMAN    

    What’s the estimated time for the Dallas, TX VA to receive the Covid Vaccine?

  10. Keith E Robinson    

    Very good job Mr. Secretary Wilkie for taking deliberate action to ‘crafting a sustainable vision,’ ‘building alignment and putting together a committed team of VA professionals’, and for ‘championing execution when the VA needed it most!’

    Good on you, sir for your actionable unmatched leadership!’ I would love to serve on your leadership team. Bravo Zulu!

    Sincerely yours,

    Dr. Keith E. Robinson, Ed. D, SPHR, CCM, CCE
    Termed Associate Professor
    United States Navy Veteran

  11. Hal Warren    

    I read with interest VA Secretary Robert Wilkie article on recent VA accomplishments. IF “As of January 4, 2021, VA had administered more than 146,000 initial vaccine doses to Veterans and health care employees just a few weeks after it became available.” why are the Arizona VAs not receiving the vaccine? I am a Veteran, over 75 years of age with numerous serious medical conditions, and have requested the vaccine through the Tucson VA Medical Center. So far- NOTHING!! I see where there are mega-centers in Texas (for instance) where anyone can just walk up and get vaccinated; some are even getting their second booster. IF you are taking care of the veterans then why are we being left out?

  12. Peter spira    

    when do we get our shots in Palo Alto?I am over 75.

  13. Peter spira    

    when do we get our shots in Palo Alto.i am over 75.

    1. Marcus Nevarez    

      What good is the link. There’s nothing new. Some of the country is on their 2nd shot and Vets are still waiting to hear when to sign up. Tell me why older vets should be at the back of the line?

  14. Michael A. Brian    

    How can I get a covid vaccine shot.

  15. Cathy Dennison    

    Thank you Secretary Wilkie for making the VA an outstanding program! You and all those employed by the VA have done a lot help make our healthcare run more smoothly! We appreciate you and your all those employees who work to make our lives better!

  16. Paul Mosteika    

    Yes you have been doing a lot more in the way of care. But, being an out-of-state veteran, I have not heard one word about inoculations for us in the Chicagoland area. I haven’t called. But I have not seen anything or heard anything. My last appointments in New Hampshire during the summer was a virtual CPAP and Doctor appointment and a cancelled retina scan. I chalk it up to the Covid crisis, and I understand. But how about vaccine distribution? Especially a veteran whose out of state for almost 1/2 of the year and who is a vet over 70 with a few debilitating diseases? Thanks.

    Paul

  17. Wallace Alan Bowker    

    I would have liked to see Mr Wilkie give credit to what President Trump did to improve the VA

  18. Edward Keen    

    Great work done more to be done! Our VA clinics like Saint Augustine are under staffed. Having our care providers to have 120% over their normal patients. Thanks for looking at it for us!

  19. Eugene Madeline    

    When will the covid 19 vaccine be avail. for all Vets?

  20. Larry Charchol    

    Yes Mr, Wilkie, the VA has improved. You make it feel real rosie. We still need much more improvement. Being 5th ISN’T ENOUGH. We SHOULD be higher. Hopefully the next real VA SECRETARY will be much more capable and give us more experience. The PRESIDENT L_I_E_D to we Veterans and all AMERICANS about COVID and reserve supplies. We should by now, have had ALL VETERANS vaccinated. As a Veteran living in Florida for the last eight years, I have seen more VA Health Care Workers QUIT. Hopefully the next VA Secretary will be more capable to do the right job, in the right way. Hopefully the next VA Secretary will be a real Secretary, not acting. We Veterans are tired of ACTING SECRETARIES in all our key Government positions. PLEASE—- ENOUGH SELF PRAISES. I thank you for your SERVICE and wish you and Mr. Pillow the best in your permanent retirement.

    Sincerely,
    “LARRY”
    (Retired 100% Disabled Veteran)

  21. Eugene Madeline    

    When will the covid19 vaccine be available for all Vets?

  22. Charles Glenn Rouse    

    Thank you for all of the help. Question; What are the requirements for a Veteran to get the Covid-19 shot’s at the VA near me? I am a Vietnam Veteran. I served in the Navy from 1961 to 1966. I am receiving 40% from the VA at present.

  23. Henry Leach    

    I appreciate Secretary Wilkie’s commitment and sincerity. However, here’s something that I hope you will communicate to him. I’m a nearly 79 year old Vietnam combat veteran and, of course, very much a COVID-19 infection target. I’m enrolled in the VA Healthcare system. My “home base” so to speak is the Marquette, Michigan Clinic and they have been wonderful in all of the years I’ve dealt with them. The bad news, however, is that I’m in Raleigh, North Carolina for this winter which is 1200 miles from Marquette and have run up against the inexplicable reality of the VA regional network system that is a stonewall barrier to me getting a COVID-19 vaccination. I’ve received emails from Marquette inviting me to schedule a vaccination appointment (of course, I can’t do that from here). I have searched numerous VA websites and called The Durham, NC VA for help and been told that I must go to a facility for enrollment!!!! I’m already enrolled and the message I get from Durham is “rules is rules”. When I call again and leave my social security number, date of birth, phone number and request a call back I never get a response. There must be countless thousands of veterans who are in the same boat and your system has an ironclad loop that acts as a barrier to access. Nowhere at any of your websites or on-line portals have I been able to find one iota of information as to how a veteran who is outside of one of your dysfunctional regional borders can get access to VA healthcare without, apparently, physically going to a VA facility (and risk infection!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) in order to fill out “paperwork”. The Selective Service army draft that snagged me in 1966 apparently was a whole lot more efficient and more mission focused, alas, than is today’s VA in this respect.

  24. James R Burden    

    why does this field continue to come back?

  25. James R Burden    

    This is a waste of time!!!!

  26. James R Burden    

    If the VA is doing so well why can’t we get vaccinated for covid and why doesn’t someone update the VA covid 19 website????

  27. Bobby Hurst    

    Excellent remarks Secretary Wilkie. Congratulations on a job well done! Thanks to you and the VA family our Veterans are being served very well. I hear from many Vets from your hometown of Fayetteville, NC who say they are well treated at the 2 VA hospital locations here. God bless you my friend for your service to our country and Veterans.

  28. Floyd Winans    

    When will the VA have shots?

  29. George Wayne Quick    

    Mr. Secretary

    Thanks for your service Sir.

    One last thing unfinished…you met a Dr Daphne Denham in Fargo.

    The promise of that clinic can still take place with some phone calls from you.

    I could not walk when a nurse in Virginia told me that I should contact the VA…..after a lengthy recovery I now get around, disability payments help & other conditions treated….even saving my life from cancer.

    Before you leave…..PLEASE revisit & help fix use of Hyperbaric protocols for TBI & addiction & other conditions Dr Denham knows all about.

    Wayne Quick

    ps
    I got a great life’s lesson in Vietnam & am now using it w/ my only child who suffers opioid addiction….he will survive to help others & hyperbarics would save lives & create “budget space.” We will soon have a paper to prove it…..

  30. Thomas Gardner    

    Hi my is Tom.
    Served in the Army from 71-74
    I never thought about using the VA for any service till I retired last year.
    I have used the VA to get my hearing aids and glasses.
    But when I try to go on line to check for doctor appointments or sending my doctor a message I can never get on the Myhealthyvet website.

    I cal the 800 number fir help but the person I talk to says they can only help me so far and the rest is up to me.

    I would like to check my messages from my doctor or how my blood work comes out but I’m very disappointed.

    Thank you

    Thomas Gardner

  31. Rodney van Ausdall    

    .” VA evolved in leaps and bounds when World War II called for a nationwide system to care for the men and women who liberated Europe.”

    Hmmm. I guess the vets that fought against Japan were so tough we need no care.

    Good to know, Mr Wilkie

    Thanks,

    Rod van Ausdall

  32. David Welker    

    Will the VA give covid shots? If so, on what date?

  33. Robert Burford    

    The VA has been a world of difference since Secretary Wilkie came aboard. Thank you Secretary Wilkie and President Trump.

  34. D    

    Dear Sir, I am a widow of a 100% disabled navy veteran . I am can champa and have been for a long time but I don’t know what the VA covers for me for glasses and for dental care. I need a booklet stating what champa covers and what it doesn’t cover sent to me by snail mail if possible.
    I’m very pleased with my insurance through champ VA.
    Thank you for any help you can give me in this matter. Sincerely,
    Dianne E Ford

  35. Mike    

    Get the vaccines to veterans.

  36. Richard Joseph Granger    

    A few weeks ago I left my name (et cetra) with my VA Health Center and requested to be notified when I could get my shots for the Covid, To this date (1/15/2021) I have not heard anything except that 146,000 Vets have received theirs. I will be 85 in 2.5 weeks and am not in good health. Can you please let me know what I need to know. I live in Fort Myers, FL. Thanks.

  37. Robert D. Evans    

    Great job, thank you.
    Robert D. Evans BT-2
    US Navy 1965-1969

  38. rolf hamrick    

    How do I get vaccinated?

  39. Lawrence    

    I have not had an eye exam in over two years,prior to that I was being examined every year. I realize COVID put a strain on everyone but I would think I could get a call back. Two years ago they had me go to a private practice

  40. rolf hamrick    

    How do I schedule for the vaccine?

  41. Dane Curry Williams    

    Dallas VA is super. Seeing as many as 3700 veteran a day( before Covid) i realize that we all human and will make mistakes, tho I personally have had no problems that wasn’t fix quickly. I hope that the Koch machines get back in service. If Covid hangs around I think that the machine can have ultraviolet sanitizing on the VA card holder and buttons to constantly sanitize machine machine. That’s just a Suggestion to think about. Anyway, God Bless the VA and all keep Christ first in your life and you will do alright. Chaplain Dane Wiliams Ellis County Marine Corps League DET 1452.

  42. Lee Cohen    

    Can you fill in some data as to when we can expect the VA in Loma Linda, CA. will have Virus 19 avlaliable to veteran over 75 and have medical conditions that could be deadly with the virus?

    I am 81 with some medical conditions to desire to get the Virus shot ASAP.

  43. Joe Gosa    

    Covid is new problem my PTSD Depression and anxiety has been a problem for over 35years!!! Can I please get immediate assistance with my disability Claim before it’s too late for me?

  44. Joe Gosa    

    I wish something more was done to speed up the process of deserving veterans disability claims!!! Housing placement for homeless veterans is a joke as I have been homeless and waiting for assistance for almost a year!!! I now see and understand why so many of us veterans commit suicide!!!! I’m at the end of my rope

  45. Matt Ovaska    

    Your stats are right there with the elections in PA. and GA. It’s impossible to give a negative report with the web sight that is fixed only to record a few positive remarks which are few and far between in the real world of VA helping vets. The suicides are probably caused by the VA which has in most cases dropped the ball. I could write a book on the VA’s failures! The sad fact is that it really would take much to do a good job. And with a little effort to do a great job. NO the VA has mostly failed us vets and pretty apt to continue failing.

  46. Audrey M. Skarness    

    When is Veteran’s Healthcare going to be ou from Obamacare [ACA]???

  47. jim strade    

    Where’s the vaccine?

  48. Edward Burton    

    When are we going to be contacted to get our COVID-19 shots? I did register a few weeks ago.

Comments are closed.