Borne the Battle #235: VA Secretary Denis McDonough


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On Feb. 8, 2021, Denis McDonough was confirmed by the Senate to be the United States’ 11th Secretary of Veterans Affairs. He heads into the job with a rich background filled with experience navigating the government’s complex bureaucracy. Being a veteran of Capitol Hill, he aims to leverage his knowledge to better serve our nation’s military Veterans.

In this episode of Borne the Battle, McDonough touches on topics important to many Veterans:

While being VA Secretary is a new position for McDonough, he has taken steps to bridge the gaps in his knowledge by renewing a tradition that he followed as White House chief of staff. He reached out to as many former VA Secretaries he could to ask them for advice. In the interview, McDonough said the conversations have served him well so far and he intends to maintain these relationships moving forward.

And while McDonough is not a Veteran, he contacted multiple Veterans during his first weeks as secretary to solicit their advice and general thoughts on the state of VA. In doing so, McDonough said he has learned valuable information on what issues are important to Veterans and has used those discussions to shape his priorities.

Many of the comments McDonough made in this episode reflect the statements he made during his Senate confirmation hearing:

Being a lifelong civil servant, McDonough enters his new position with a vast wealth of knowledge about navigating the federal government to achieve goals. Whether he successfully leverages his extensive experience from Capitol Hill to effectively serve America’s Veterans – he says that will ultimately be decided by you.

In addition to listening to full episodes on your favorite podcatcher, you can also catch Borne the Battle interviews on YouTube:


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CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL TRANSCRIPT OF THE EPISODE

Calvin Wong is an intern with VA’s Digital Media Engagement team. He studies History as an undergraduate at the University of California, Davis.

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Comments

  1. Tim Weber    

    First I must say I appreciate everyone in all areas of the VA and the commitment I see them all give to me. Things don’t always go the way I want them to, but I still appreciate and thank you and everyone else in the VA.

    My question/concerns is about how well in general the VA is administering Covid vaccines. These numbers are obviously not accurate, but I am only using them as an example. The VA does well giving 1,000 Covid-19 vaccines, so next week they receive 2,000 doses. The do well giving the 2,000, so let’s have them give injections to this other government agency. So now let’s let the VA provide injections to all veterans, and all veteran spouses, and on and on.

    The people doing this good work are the same VA techs, VA administrative staff, VA nurses, etc., that are also suppose to be giving other heath care to VA veterans. Before Covid, they all had full time jobs giving care, but now they don’t have time for that. I see the stress in the employees of having to work in a VA clinic and doing Covid injections. Or being understaffed in the clinic because so many people are away doing other things.

    This isn’t an easy thing to solve, all of the tasks are important tasks including giving vaccines to as many people as possible. All this is a long way of saying, when do we get the VA workers back in the clinics providing health care needed by the veterans.

    Thanks for your time.

  2. Miguel P Alvarez    

    I am a Vietnam Vet who is trying to help dependents of Vietnam Vet died of Agent Orange (diabetis melitus 2). His SBP’s beneficiaries were his two dependent childs who are now adults. After submitting the required forms (SBP), checks for the amount of $750 were issued to each beneficiary, and that’s the end of it. After so many follow-ups/phone calls they finally gave up. As advocate and friend to the deceasef, I believe that I could help him by mustering all concern that can provide assistance to his dependents. I think we owed this guy all the assistance we could provide. Also, he paid up for this SBP premiums. Let’s all stay safe and pray that this pandemic will be a thing of our past.

  3. Warren Oakley    

    I am a disabled ten percent service connected veteran. I am a blue water veteran during 1974 who served off the coast of VietNam, in the South China Sea. I am suffering from Parkinson’s, and many other diseases from exposure to agent orange. Being a blue water veteran I have to prove my exposure to agent orange to be able to get the help I need. I am unable to get the deck logs from the USS NewOrleans for the year of 1974, in order to prove my claim. I need help and don’t know what to do or how to get these deck logs so I can prove the movement of the ship and its location during the time I served. I need your help, thanks.

  4. Charlie Loomis    

    20:50….turned off this broadcast at the “inclusive and equitable” question by the host.

  5. Mark James Pogose    

    What about a increase for disability benefits.

  6. Michael Valgos    

    Maybe this new man should come out to the Modesto, Ca clinic I was scheduled for a vaccination for COVID-19 I was first scheduled for 1 pm and then it changed to 1145 and so I had taken 2 week to schedule another appointment with my bank So then I get a phone call that I have 20 minutes to get to the clinic or you will not receive your vaccine So I missed my bank appointment I get to the clinic and it was the director there wanted to finish up early I asked he made the screw up and he jump back at me and said there was no screw up I said I am not going back to that clinic I will go to the hospital emergency This is the kind of thing we have to deal with This individual did not put the veteran first He puts his agenda first So he could report in finished ahead of schedule I asked that he apologise to me and he will not So I don’t care who I have to talk to but that fat belly needs his attitude adjusted

  7. Marvin Spencer    

    We know the over 50,000 plus and counting ultimate sacrifices made by Vietnam Veterans. I had two brothers that served in the USMC (Marines) 69 and 70’s both spent over 11 months in Vietnam and in the bush, and one spilled his blood fighting for his country, was awarded both the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. I lost my older brother to this undeclared war to what we now call PTSD. My other brother is still struggling to survive daily and that was over 50 years ago. I volunteered to go to Vietnam as a USMC Marine (third generation) in 1974 but never got to serve in county but did help to evacuate over 100,000 Cambodian and Vietnam refugees flown into my base, 3rd MAW (Marine Air Wing) ElToro California. Many of us, including this military family honor your service and if I saw you would shake your hand and say with pride “SemperFi brother thank you!” We all had a job to do and did it to the best of our ability and many paid with their lives. There were many who claimed bone Spurs or went to Canada to dodge the draft and evade service to their country. Our family, with over 40 years of military service, stand with honor. We don’t have this problem, to understand that we are the true Patriots and 1 percent. SemperFi from a 3rd generation USMC Veteran.

  8. Tevell Brown    

    I don’t want to complain things are hard all over. I am a disabled veteran with PTSD due to a sexual assault when I was in the service and back neck nerve issues all got service related I’m in the middle of claims and it just seems as though the VA cares more about saving the VA money and resources instead of giving them to the veterans who really needs them can anyone help me I have an attorney but she can only do so much.

  9. Mark Francis Mullen    

    Unconscionable to have a non-veteran in this position. Surely there are qualified veterans. Political appointees just cause more problems than they solve, IMO

  10. Jodi L. McSwiney    

    Mr. McDonough, My husband was in Vietnam 1970-72 honorable discharge, First Cavalry, was constantly exiposed to Agent Orange, We married in 1980 and were married for 40 years 2020. We had two children , one we lost in 2009 at 21 due to autoimmune diseases, the other is 30 and now has the autoimmune, didn’t appear until 6 years ago. She is so far doing well with monthly infusions and even gave us a grandson in 2019, we adored him, so thankful he got over a year with him. As his wife, he received VA disability for his Agent Orange Parkinson’s and were getting ready to give him 100%. They called for his appointment but he was in the hospital with another bout with falling. He had many pre existing conditions which were probably related but didn’t get the chance for the exam. He was at 80%. He was having multiple falls and in hospital alot the last few yrs, of his life, but still pursed exercises and he worked very hard but it was winning over. He was in a Kettering, Ohio Medical Center as it was close to us in their rehab for the Parkinson’s where he contracted Covid 19 early on and we didn’t get to see him or any contact except with Dr. holding the phone. He was intubated on the 2nd day when they took him up to the floor and passed within 8 days. My daughter and I were devistated and we could not see him and Dr’s rotated in the unit every couple of days. He always told me don’t worry, the VA will help with my disability for your spousal benefits. The Dr. with him that day put nothing about his Parkinson’s on the Death Certificate and did not know him at all, I have been trying , getting letters from his Dr.’s and trying to get the Death Certificate amended. I miss him dearly, but this will be devistating not to get my spousal benefit that he counted on so did not have much insurance. Sincerely, Jodi L. McSwiney

  11. Jon Bryant    

    This political figure head Biden has appointed has no skin in the game regarding our care nor does he understand the level of frustration we encounter in dealing with the VA to address our life long benefits as Veterans. Bottom line is the government is once again leaving behind the very voice of those who carry on in life as Veterans. We may be small in numbers but together our voices will echo through the challenge to make a difference. It’s time to get our PTSD veteran brothers and sisters off harmful medications and start administering holistic medicine IE marijuana to treat and combat the scars of warfare. It’s ridiculous our treatment of veterans is that of third world countries.

  12. John S Terranova    

    Just one, on the past issue that Secretary Denis McDonough brought up about “Minority Veterans”. There isn’t any, Veterans are “Army, Navy, Air Force ,(Coast Guard ) and Marines. In the Army, we were told that We are NO longer anything but Green and Nationality was U.S.A. ,Period. Leave Segregation to Civilians and the Politicians and those Media Franchises who wish to Dived the Country. When the Military during the Civil War had it’s Black Regiments, it Segregated the Troops, same with WW1, and less but there,WW2,Korea and Vietnam. “The definition of Insanity, is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results”. Papa Bear

  13. ken kaahanui    

    Why as a combat over 65 do I have to pay co-pays? To a lot of vets this is a burden.

  14. Kenneth Davidson    

    As a 74 year old disabled veteran I rely on the VA for my health care needs. Since this COVID begin I have found it hard to get the care I need. I understand the problems and safety precautions necessary but I feel that the doctors and nurses sometimes use it as an excuse not to work as hard. It is so much harder to get care than I think it should be. Example, I’ve been suffering from headaches for sometime now. My primary says to talk to my Neurosurgeon when my appointment comes up. They change that appointment to a phone conference which I was unaware of. Talked with the doctor while setting in the VA parking lot but he wasn’t interested about headaches only my pituitary growth. Was able to tell the nurse about them. Now I have to see if my Neurologist will look into them at mt next appoint. That will make it over two months I’ve suffered with sometimes extreme headaches.

  15. JOHN P TRISTANI    

    Well regarding the covid vaccine, I was registered early on with the NJ state and as a member of the NJ VA. However each time I received an email stating a vaccine was available by going to the site to schedule my date/time, I always got the same message, essentially, “none available, check later.”
    I gave up receiving the vaccine when I contacted Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, NJ on 03/19 to schedule a physical from my provider, they asked if I had received the vaccine, I said “No, I gave up,” they responded that I could have it on 03/25 if desired, which I accepted.
    Valley Hospital in Paramus, NJ at 1100 a.m., show up 15 minutes prior, excellent organization from road signs to volunteers within building, maps to guide within building, received Phizer 1st shot, home by 1145 a.m., #2 scheduled for 04.15.

  16. James Earl Petty, Jr.    

    The VA Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre, PA is an excellent provider of medical care.  All contacts that I have had get a 5-star rating: the eligibility office, my PCP, the lab, teledermatology, optometrist, and IT.  Even before COVID-19, the facility was always clean!  My hope is that Secretary Denis McDonough will maintain the high quality care provided under President Trump’s watch.

  17. Patrick Tyrrell    

    Borne The Battle? Service is Service. I respect that! However, there is this question about Vietnam (Boots on the Ground) and (Vietnam Era) Veterans. Best estimates I can find is 2.7 million for the former and 9.2 million for the latter. I think the distinction should be made. For those remaining of boots on the ground alive today, the war is still very real. For the others it never was. Sadly and unintentionally, those who have borne the battle and need specific combat related attention, get lost in the shuffle. Having had my boots on the ground, I still know the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Just sayin’

  18. GARY Lee GRIMMETTE    

    i was a 17 yr old volunteer combat medic in viet nam, 1966-1967 i served with great honor, representing my country, my flag, and saving the lives of my fellow solders, i was in the jungles for 11 + months, I as my other Brother COMBAT MEDICS, risked our lives to save others, no matter what color, race, back ground. The Combat Medics are the LEAST appreciated of all SOLDIERS, I was awarded the ” BRONZE STAR , with the “V” device for valor. We were treated as Baby Killers, Spit on and REJECTED by MOST AMERICANS, Who Forgot that OUR GOVERNMENT sent us there. I would like to PROPOSE to AMERICA , That A STATUE DEDICATED TO US, Be Close to the Viet Nam Memorial, you have a STATUE for WOMEN, who were in the rear areas of the battles, We were the ones who was out front, and when we heard the YELL..MEDIC, got up and ran to the wounded, Through EMEMY, FRIENDLY FIRE, while others were crouched behind cover. we were wounded, died in the line of DUTY. WHERE IS OUR GLORY , STORIES TOLD.. ???, SHAME ON YOU ALL WHO DID THIS TO US , AND NEVER SAID YOU WERE SORRY ,Even BETRAYED US ON OUR RETURN.

    1. Rick Bensen    

      Vietnam at 17 ?..Didn’t know that was allowed..I had to wait until 18 to be a grunt..

    2. David F. Lee    

      I regret that medic Grimmette feels that combat medics are the least appreciated of all soldiers. I assume he was in the Army or some branch other than the Marine Corps. Most medics (corpsman) for the Marine Corps come from the ranks of the Navy. Navy FMF Corpsman are highly respected and fight all side Marines in combat and they have the opportunity to continue their affiliation with the Corps by becoming a member of the Congressionally created (1937) Marine Corps League. Thank you veteran Grimmette for your heroic service to our County and to the men and women you served. Member of the Marine Corps League Detachment 472, Tallahassee, FL.

    3. David Juncer    

      Correction. You may be among the the least appreciated by civilians, and even under-appreciated by those who never left the beach, but you are fully respected by those of us who served with you on those two-way ranges in ‘Nam and other wars. A Combat Medics Badge carries ,for most us, more of an assumption of dedication and self-sacrifice than a CIB, some grunt’s honest disagreement not withstanding, I suspect medics were awarded more Bronze Stars- and Purple Hearts per capita than any other MOS. too, and with less bragging than most.
      I don’t know where you ran into the disrespect you’ve apparently run into here at home, but if you need some relief I suggest
      you go have a beer or two with other old ‘Nam vets at your local VFW-especially the Infantry, Cav and cannon- cocker varieties. Might include a few Jarheads, Engineers, and Transportation Corps truck drivers, too.
      Oh and thank you for your care when we were hurt. YOU ARE NOT UNAPPRECIATED!!

    4. Marvin Spencer    

      Don’t disrespect your bothers in arms whether they are combat veteran or not they served with honor and to support those in combat. I’m a third generation USMC Veteran volunteer, didn’t serve in country but did my part to help evacuate over 100,00 Cambodia and Vietnam refugees that were flown into the 3MAW USMC, ElToro California. I have two bothers that served in Vietnam, 69, 70 and did 11 and 12 months in the bush one spilled his blood in country received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. I lost my oldest brother to what is now called PTSD. My father served 24 years in the US Army, a Korean and WWII Veterans, None of them disrespected my non-combat tenure but instead were proud of my USMC service and contributions to country, SemperFi 3rd Generation USMC 74-80 Military family served over 40 years to this country.

    5. Priscilla McDowell    

      I appreciate you and your fellow Medics! Your sacrifice has not been and will never be forgotten! Not by me or the other grateful Americans that enjoy life’s freedoms today! In today’s society it is too often not said enough and true some has forgotten…..but from one Veteran to another – Thank You and May your suggestion go forward with the consideration it deserves. Stand Tall and Keep it Moving Forward! And no I’m not a Vietnam Veteran, but I know who shoulders I stand on!! And I salute you!

    6. Julie Herndon    

      Dear Combat Medic Grimmette,
      Your selfless service did not go unnoticed by my Disabled VietNam veteran who was a boot on the ground in 1971-1972. After being injured in country, (then hospitalized for his injuries) he not only had a badly infected wound after staying in country for two days after the injury, then coming down with malaria (yes he took the malaria pills, which became his undoing 50 years later) he was basically saved by his Medic who recognized the infection, cellulitis, AND the malaria and treated him. He was in the hospital for two weeks barely making it out but for his medic, he would have surely died. He has many stories about the various medics he encountered there. He believes they need recognition close to the Veterans Memorial, too. He was in DC in 2019 and saw a small statue of two medics but not close to the memorial. That needs to change.,Thank you Medic Grimmette for being one of the many brave medics who served our country well. I hope you get your well deserved statue. From a Grateful Vietnam Vet’s Wife.

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