VA health executive: We are listening to our Veterans

VA employees “silver lining” in pandemic


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VHA Chief of Staff Jon Jensen was joined by Dr. Steve Lieberman for this edition of Chats with the Chief.

Lieberman is VA’s acting deputy undersecretary for Health. In this chat, he talks about the 18-hour days of VA frontline staff dealing with the pandemic and the great health care being provided to Veterans.

Lieberman was born in Philadelphia, grew up in New Jersey and spent some time working at National Aeronautics and Space Administration early in his career. That experience is evident when you hear why he enjoys and recommends the book Endurance by astronaut Scott Kelly.

Lieberman’s grandfather’s massive heart attack was a key reason for his switch from space to health care.

He has over 30 years’ experience with VA and shares a wide variety of memories of numerous departmental challenges. He talks about his work process with a reference to the TV program, “The Queen’s Gambit” and explains the connection.

Member of first deployment team

Lieberman remembers being on VA’s first emergency medical personnel deployment ever in Waco, Texas, following hurricanes Katrina and Rita – all part of the lesser known VA Fourth Mission.

Hear him describe why it’s a life changing experience and why he recommends it for all VA employees.

As a senior leader dealing with COVID-19 and the multiple complexities that entails, Lieberman reflects on the numerous impressive efforts by VA staff to make sure all Veterans are being cared for.

Tough but rewarding year

Lieberman believes VA employees have been a “silver lining” in the pandemic and discusses the challenges when “we were all trying to figure our way forward on how do we best communicate and how do we best work together.”

VA’s Office of Diversity is, for him, “an incredibly important topic.” He describes how he has been working on that issue since the 90s.

Hear his thoughts on why we all need to “keep focusing on resiliency and what we can continue doing for our Veterans.”

Author

Veterans Health Administration

Comments

  1. Thomas Shirley    

    I was insulted at VA in Lafayette, La AGAIN this AM. Lashun spoke to me like I was a bad child for trying to check in according to my appointment letter. She wanted me to go sit down a few minutes and start at the back of the long check in line. That’s right, 8:30 in morning and lines already getting long. My sin? I got there a half hour early exactly as my letter instructed. She told me I had to go sit down until 8:45 then start at the back of the long line again. What BS! The pleasant lady beside her checked me in in about two minutes. Way less time that the confrontation and very disrespectful encounter with Lashun. Sadly I avoid VA as much as possible. SE Asia August 68 to June 71. 352 recon missions flown.

  2. Barry    

    I put my problem up here and it was deleted, so much for listening huh!

  3. Kam Gallman    

    The way the VA does disability math is really messed up. Combined I’m well over 100% and I’m still at 90% how the VA does a that and has gotten away with it for this long is beyond me. We serve our country come back with issues and the VA does everything they can to prevent you from being compensated properly.

    [Editor: Hi Kam, don’t think of it as addition. Here’s an explainer to find out how “able” you are, not how “disabled”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbX0NsN6wRk ]

  4. Willie Cureton    

    The VA is a bunch of b******* my husband waited 3 years to get a primary care doctor with a diagnosis of sciatic nerve damage he laid in the floor for almost almost half of the 3 months then once he did get a primary care doctor they could not provide him transportation to his primary care doctor knowing that he didn’t have transportation of his own so now they scammed up and put him in a fiduciary program with no notification no documents signed by him agreeing to that program they said that if needed to be put into the program who would he like he gave his daughter as the person to be his payee if they decided he needed to be in that program they emailed his daughter and that was it no interview no follow up no questions about any of her income just nothing that would say they were considering her and VA says they prefer family to someone that a veteran doesn’t know anything about they place my husband in a fiduciary program not being deemed incompetent by a doctor or a judge now they refuse to do the requirements to get him out of that program he never set up a budget he never met this lady that’s over his money he didn’t even know that he was in the program until January of 2020 when he went to get his money out of the bank and he had no money going to the Veterans affairs office they told him well your money’s in pamlico South Carolina you have a fiduciary over your money he never met this lady they never had a budget set up when he did meet the lady on the side of the road in Florence South Carolina she never even asked for credentials or anything never knowing Mr veteran from a can of paint but she issued out money she does not do anything he asked her to do his utilities have been shut off three or four times due to her forgetting to pay the bill or just negligent so to speak she has fraud cases on her but those are the type of people that VA will allow to work for them thanks

  5. Crystal Dunblazier    

    I have been in the VA healthcare system since February of 2019. I’m 100% P&T and should be getting pain management care for my service related disability. However, the Dallas VA medical center has not only refused to provide that care, they have also refused me the right to seek that care elsewhere! This talk about how the VA is listening and doing great things is a bunch of Bullsht!!! I have written an appeal that was denied by the Executive Office even though they don’t specialize or understand my rare condition. I filed a second appeal and had a formal meeting with my healthcare team that took 2 years to coordinate. Even then that meeting did not end with any sort of Plan of Care. Their answer was “We don’t have any more treatments we can offer and we can’t make the Executive Office approve community care even though we all agree that it’s in your best interest !” What kind of fcked up sht is that? Since when is it okay to deny care for service related disabilities, because that’s exactly what’s happening here? I’ve also written 2 congressional letters that have yielded no results since the Executive Office lied and stated I refused treatment. The only thing I refused was to allow them to continue performing procedures that fail and cause a worsening of my symptoms. Don’t lie about how you’re listening to those who rely on you for appropriate care!!!

  6. Patrick Thomas    

    Same old song. Just a different singer. I believe that the VA rather you die than take responsibility and compensate you while you’re living. You have to wait years and years before you even know if your case is even approved or denied. If you can hold out that long.

  7. Miguel D'Imperio    

    Hi, I need a lawyer that will take my case against Vamc Brooklyn…..

  8. Stanley Wilcox    

    Boy there sure is alot of negative feedback on this site. As far as the way the VA has performed for me in my area have been very good . I know there is always room for improvement but so far so good. Hope everyone’s comments can be taken care of soon. I understand that it can be frustrating but it is the government!

  9. Mitchell R Williams    

    This is concerning the MOPC, my PCP has disappeared from the clinic and they tell me my new PCP is working from his home by video, I’ve got questions about my health but this doesn’t work not having Dr. to see face to face. Can’t we either be sent to a community clinic or bring in a PCP in person, Thanks 80% Service Connected, Mitchell Williams

  10. Ted Wacholtz    

    As a former National Service Officer (NSO) and 170% SERVICE-CONNECTED DISABLED VETERAN, with 8 disabilities, trying to get assistance for the “CARE GIVER” program is a complete JOKE!!!

    The 2-part criteria for the CARE GIVER program is STRICTLY a JOKE. To be eligible for this program, you nearly have to be DEAD!!! Spouses of VETS are pretty much ignored. This has happened to my wife and very sad and disgraceful. The OT report only done by VIDEO CONFERENCE in our home was only question and answer. If not viewed doing ADL’S, climbing stairs and so much else, how can a proper eval be accomplished or done right, nor fair at all.

    I feel the entire CARE GIVER program is unfair and Discriminatory. There is no assistance from anyone at the TOGUS VAMC or maybe any VA that provides any guidance to state an OT assessment needs to be included with the initial application. How all the medical team (in my case the entire PAIN TEAM). There was no coordination of this team to discuss the difficulties I have rto contend with hour by hour and day by day, and the tremendous emotional, psychological and physical wear and tear taking care of me as my CARE TAKER, of which the VA evaluators have no idea.

    Because someone is intelligent and speaks intelligently, is used against the Vet. I’m 170% SERVICE-CONNECTED DISABLED VETERAN and because no one seems to understand STIFF-PERSON SYNDROME and CENTRAL SENSITIZATION SYNDROME, no one can fully comprehend the HELL I go through everyday. Instability, Falling, need to use a cane to walk and so much more. Just for the month of April 2021, I had 29 medical appts and for those where I had to go to medical appts, she sets up my pills, makes my meals, has to remind me of so many things, day-in and day-out. She is extremely exhausted all the time and it is unfair to my wife Linda. Absolutely no help from the TOGUS VAMC, after administratively approved for 30-day respite care or psychological treatment or peer counseling.

    There is so much more of how the VA “CARE GIVER” program is a complete failure and punishing me and my wife.

    Ted Wacholtz

  11. Chris Porter    

    As a VA patient myself, I understand each of your frustrations. I too want to make sure we are heard, but by the right individuals who ultimately caused the problem. Yes, there are VAMC employees who need to be fired for not doing their jobs, and be replaced with competent personnel.
    Although, the individuals we all must be angry with is our Legislative Branch, our Representatives and Senators. The very ones we, a country, elected to represent us. Whether or not you voted for them or not they represent us, and it is up to each American to flood their Congressional leaders with emails and letters letting them know where you stand. Telling them if they don’t do their job morally, ethically and for what is best for this country and its American citizens and the constitution, you will not vote for them again, and will lobby against them. That is the only way for true change.

  12. Mike    

    if the VA health care is so great why to I have to wait 3 months without pain medication after taking it over a year and now they won’t prescribe it. With a well noted account of spinal injury.

  13. Linda Martucci    

    I live in Delaware county N.Y., why are there no clinics within a reasonable distance of Margaretville NY. What happened to the choice program where I can use civilian medical facilities. Please set something up, I’m sure there are alot of veterans around Delaware county that would be better served by something closer.

  14. Victor LeBlue    

    I am rated 100%. My dental implant procedure was abruptly interrupted by the Covid shutdown. I was not referred through ‘Community Care’ to complete the procedure (which is the VA normally affords Veterans) and no date was given when VA dental would re-open and resume services. In short, my wife and I needed to invade our limited savings to have the procedure completed by a private dental office. Completing the dental implant work that VA dental began amounted to eleven-thousand dollars. It was urgent that I take the initiated since four teeth were missing and my gum structure had begun to degrade. I tried to petition the VA for reimbursement by contacting Senator Dianne Feinstein’s. When VA dental contacted me their decision resulted in denial of my petition. The response spun the storyline by pointing to me being at fault—framing the false-narrative that I rejected a Covid test. The position the VA Dental Department head in LaJolla took was not one of customer satisfaction— but confrontational and adversely reactive. With all the media fluff about the VA being Veteran Centric…this Vietnam Veteran feels like he was abandoned on the battle-field.

  15. Liza Ashley    

    Wow, I find this hard to believe along with my fellow veterans. My brother is an Iraq War veteran who deployed during the initial invasion and is constantly being screwed over by the VA. He has several health issues and should be at 100%. Yet, I know two females I served with who did NOTHING but cry rape (when it didn’t happen) or continued to get pregnant throughout their entire enlistment and both have 100% disability for things that are not true. The one is a “retired PFC”! Yes, I said retired PFC…she never even made lance corporal. The other was always crazy and wanted PTSD added to her med board along with her knee “problem”. After threatening her therapist, they dropped the med board but she still got her benefits and then some! She is now a nurse somewhere in Ohio, a NURSE who is unstable and she told people she was not supposed to be working. What a waste. They milked the system as much as they could. There are veterans in desperate need of care who went through scenarios (I’m not saying rape and sexual assault do not happen to both males and females) in war, but are shunned out by the VA. I don’t understand. I do not use the VA unless I absolutely have to. They are pathetic and don’t care about those who served. Stop trying to make yourselves look good. It’s a horrible system and everyone knows it.

  16. RICHARD LEON BACCARIE    

    Richard Baccarie ,
    I’ve brought my complaint to the patient advocate and the Director of the Providence,R.I. V.A. about my problem. Never felt such disrespect. My problem has still not been taken care of.They send me to the civilian doctors to see if I can get it done through by the community. And then they dont allow them to do it. They lie and say one thing . They truly do not care about myself or my fellow veterans. They dont train us for Bureaucracy ,Neglect or Apathy. Those are things the V.A. is very good at. There are some good people there but sadly the bad people are the entities who I need help from.

    RICHARD L BACCARIE
    UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS RETIRED

  17. Dale Toney    

    In 2016, I went through almost 2 years of continuing progressive pain. Because during this time I changed VA systems due to a year long hiatus from Las Vegas. It took 2 years to get relief.

    The VA doctors work on a schematic system. First you must see your primary care doctor. Which takes a month or more. Once you get the appointment and go….next step is for the primary care provider to send you for an xray. I got the xray the same day. Now I must wait another 30 days to see primary care doctor again. This time she says, yes you have a lot of information. 

    Now she refers me to the ortho clinic and physical therapy.
    A month later I see the ortho surgeon
    Who sends me for a MRI.
    2 months later I get the MRI.
    While getting the MRI at a civilian radiology lab, they asked if I wanted a DVD of the MRI. I am so glad I said yes…..or thought so.
    Now that I had MRI…..I got an appointment to go back to ortho doctor. A month later.
    At this appointment the doctor advised me that he could not help me today because he does not see the results of the MRI. I smiled and handed him the DVD of said MRI.
    WELL. he could not look at it, because of cyber security rules, he could not trust that this DVD was something that could harm the VA system.
    Finally he found a laptop not connected to VA….and looked at the MRI
    one minute later I got a steroid shot in the shoulder and have not suffered any pain since.
    But it sure took a long time.

    4 years later the other shoulder starts hurting.  I can tell it’s exactly like the other.
    Partial tears to rotator cuff. But now covid is going on. Try using the heathcare vet site, to make an appointment…..fageddaboutit….better worse…..try calling the VA Hospital.  I emailed my pcp, not knowing that she had quit the VA. So now I have no pcp. So I email the nurse. But that nurse is assigned to another doctor and I get no response.

    After 6 months I just go to the VA hospital and check in at primary care. The nurse comes out and I tell my story.
    She gets the PCP to refer me for xray.
    A week later doctor calls and say I have inflammation in my shoulder and refers me to physical therapy.  Which I have been through before therefore I know what to do so I refuse PT and tell them I need ortho.

    A week later my PCP calls me and says she has referred me to ortho and they will call me for an appointment.
    They call 3 days later and the appointment  is 2 months away, so I ask for community care.  When VA can’t give you an appointment you have option to go to a private doctor.
    That was 2 weeks ago. You can’t call community care until they call you with a special code.
    So here I sit with a shoulder that is getting progressively worse……..
    Waiting on a call.
    Still haven’t had the MRI yet.

    Still waiting as the pain ever increases.  Too the point I spend all day either stretching my shoulder or withering in pain. I can not lay down in a bed.

    2/11/21
    I go to the southern Nevada VA patient advocate. This is the person you talk when you are stuck in the system or have a problem with VA service or a provider.  They will make things happen.

    When I get to the patient advocate it was a bad time. There were hundreds of 65 + year old vets in line getting thier covid vaccines.  There was a sign on the door saying…..for the safety of employees this office is closed. Call this number.

    Once I get home I call the advocate and have a very positive conversation. He looks at my records and sees I have been waiting over a month for a call from the Community Care people so they can schedule me for an appointment.

    He gives me great news. He sent out an email to all department heads, asking that I be taken care of. He was so positive he told me IF I don’t get a call today, it will surely be tomorrow.

    2/22/21
    It’s been over a week and I have yet to get a call from Community Care.  I will call the advocate back today and see what he has to  say.
    Did he just put a pacifier in my mouth? Or did he really believe his email would help me? Or was he just blowing smoke up my azz?

    2/23/21
    Get a call from same guy who gives me a number to ortho surgeon. Says to call and get appointment he has sent them the paperwork.

    2/24/21
    Got an appointment for March 29
    I sure miss my PPO insurance.

    3/29/21
    Got to see orthopedics in community care.  Got cortisone shot. Didn’t help. So now I have an appointment in June where the doctor will order and try to get approved for MRI.

    And I hear talk about how better the VA is now.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love the VA but I understand all the employees are bound by the VA rulebook.  If you ever worked for the government you know there are rules upon rules upon rules.

    This is why I want the VA hospital system to close.  Think of all those millions of maintaining this monstrosity of a system.

    Those dollars are better spent in the private community.

  18. Kenneth Rodriquez    

    Hello am like a a lot other veterans we are just looking to get what we deserve I’ve been waiting for 3 years I got ordered 10%, they paid me for like 6 months but I am owed from April 2018 to 2019 January and I still haven’t got it people say they call but they they don’t they they don’t even bother to help they will go to this go to that they don’t care they don’t help so I don’t know what we’re going to do but take care guys

  19. jason c bruce    

    Yeah the VA is a joke, they take forever to do anything claims side forever, the people who are supposed to be there to help try to discourage you from trying. The VA said in my last denial letter that they concede that my disability is service connected and denied anyway. Went to a VA shrink and he tells me that since I’m not killing myself with drugs and alcohol I’m fine. No help there and and I can’t afford help outside the VA.

  20. Steven dawson    

    The VA is a damn joke. I’m rated at 70%. I filed a claim on march 10th 2020. My claim hasnt moved from gathering evidence etc. since November 2020. Went to all my c&p exams, last one was in August 2020. Now QTC is saying I was a no show. I told the va that I have copies of the mileage reimbursement checks that QTC sent. I’m about to hire a lawyer……..

  21. MICHAEL Fowble    

    Why is it taking the VA so long to reimburse co-pays payments that veterans have paid after May of 2020 . Congress passed a bill and President Biden signed it into law months ago . Veterans do appreciate this benefit during the pandemic, however, why do the veterans have to be last in line

  22. Vicki l. Hoover    

    CK. Out V.A. in Big Spring, Texas. Completely aware of Fraud againest Medicare, IRS, Falsifying Documents, And identity theft. Denied benifits aft. Husband’s death of 33 yrs. Doctor who signed death Cert. Natural causes, when in multiple hosp. still ordering and picking up Meds, supplies in his name. 4 MOS aft. Park view Nurses ( useing elec.signatures) claimed SSI benifits, our tax returnes, stimulus payments, pulled out of his account. Transfered into their account. My husband was a Marine, worked in ROI at the V.A. till he retired. 2/7/19, he designated me his Wife, entitled.Also filed our Joint taxes, Both sets of documents, noterized in V.A.hospital room where he was a inpatient. By Human resources. I have copies.,
    Pages noterized have surfaced. Showing tax admendments, common law wife, & waivers to my rites. Still fighting for widow benifits, now have to file taxes on the payments from his accounts. This has happened numerous times to numerous Vets & families. Google it!! I can prove thru documentation!! Untill someone stops these people, Can any body they give a damn about Veterans!!

  23. Rbebcca Henderson    

    Hello,
    I would like to speak to someone about my disability. I am about to undergo Neurosurgery and will be 100% for a while. I am 80% now. How do I get 100% pay while recovering from service connected injuries?

  24. William Buhler    

    When Community Care physician request a procedure and the veteran lacks a driver, why doesn’t the VA reimburse for Taxis, Urber, or Lyft. VHA transportation department at Bay Pines, Florida, informed me that the VA will only reimburse for mileage.

    1. Barry Litchfield    

      It goes to 100% automatically, or it’s supposed to, for I think three months. It did when I had a heart attack in the VA hospital in Dallas. Good luck, and get copies of every medical record they made for your healthcare while you’re in the VA hospital. Dispute any false information.

  25. Christina Danielle Thundathil    

    Dr. Lieberman,

    Dude we have talked and exchanged multiple emails. You have to know what you are saying is lies.

    You don’t listen to Veterans…. even high profile Veterans like me. Go the hell on with that mess.

  26. SW    

    so this site is playing games again not posting my comments at 1135hrs and giving me bogus excuses like I’m sending messages too fast or I entered an incorrect capture. Why won’t you people allow us veterans our fought for and well deserved rights to free speech and post pour comments without the b—-s—-?
    This is a pack of lies. Maybe the VA should explain why veterans can’t get the care they need or receive their travel reimbursements and yet the VA recently gave all it’s employees a 19% pay increase retroactive to September 2020. Where did all that money come from??? Why can’t disabled veterans get more than a measly 3% increase in their disability every year when the VA has this much money to give to employees who aren’t working and seeing veterans when veterans aren’t even allowed access in their VA medical Centers for IN PERSON appointments still?

    [Editor: You submitted six identical messages. One is enough. Our spam tracker routed them all to spam. I restored one of them, and this one, too.]

  27. SW    

    This is a pack of lies. Maybe the VA should explain why veterans can’t get the care they need or receive their travel reimbursements and yet the VA recently gave all it’s employees a 19% pay increase retroactive to September 2020. Where did all that money come from??? Why can’t disabled veterans get more than a measly 3% increase in their disability every year when the VA has this much money to give to employees who aren’t working and seeing veterans when veterans aren’t even allowed access in their VA medical Centers for IN PERSON appointments still?

    [Editor: We’re not aware of a 19% employee pay increase. The federal workforce got 1% in FY21 with a proposed 2.7% for FY22. As for disability rates, VA generally follows COLA. More from the SSA on how COLA is determined can be found, here: https://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/latestCOLA.html#:~:text=The%20Social%20Security%20Act%20specifies,the%20Bureau%20of%20Labor%20Statistics. ]

  28. Johnny    

    it’s alarming just how truly clueless these stuffy bureaucrats are its like they all want to be on tv and pat there own backs good sport. just watching themselves talk. if your wearing a suit and tie then i’m aint listening. NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR STUPID STUFFY CHATS. why was this even in the email HOW IUS THIS A RESOURCE. take me off this stupid list clowns

  29. Steve M. Goldsmith    

    It’s all BS take care of the Veterans first n stop violating our civil rights.
    Here in Muskogee they take care of there employees first instead of the Veterans n all they care about are there bonuses ( upper management). There all the same

  30. George Mastroni    

    HUD VASH will not help with housing voucher in West Haven, Ct. Due to I have not been homeless for three years. I came up to help mom from Florida, but she passed. Thus my West Palm Beach Housing Authority Voucher was cancelled. Now six months living in a garage,no heat . Don’t know how long I can hold out.

  31. Mel Thomason    

    Will the VA make COMMUNITY CARE/MISSION Program work again ? I used it a lot, and then TRUMP renamed it and put one of his guys in charge and (for me) it has not worked since. I have to drive 40 miles just for an eye exam, yet we have 15 eye doctors in town..

  32. Kenneth J Mescher    

    When will the law officersGet out of the VA rating system they have no idea About what veterans suffer in our every day life and give veterans what they deserve

  33. Terry    

    Why do we have to pay anything for care. Why does it take so long to get an appointment.

  34. manuel Vincent Caruana aka Carwana    

    I have been for months trying to get my Vet ID card for id and medical care. the web site says my request is in progress . it has said that for 6 months now. how can i get my vet id ?

    my name when in the army was Manuel Carwana. the spelling has been changed since i left the army to Caruana

  35. James bowman    

    I was told by my democratic congresswoman, that ANYTHING THAT MEDICARE PATIENTS GET AS FAR AS BENEFITS AND TREATMENT I CAN ALSO GET FROM THE VA. IS THIS TRUE OR NOT

  36. Joshua Scott Osborn    

    C&P Exams should be stopped as long as theirs a threat. I myself am stranded in another country which has been deemed level 4 and not outbound travel unless filipino and for work.

  37. Steven C Millican    

    I have enquired several times as to why I can’t get a new pair of glasses through the VA at Bonham Tx the same quality as the pair I got from the VA in Grand Junction, Co? I still after one year have not gotten an answer.

  38. Daniel Santos    

    You may be listening to your veterans but here in Mesa, Az at the VA Clinic, they don’t listen to Me! I have had issues with my Primary or nurse and it has taken writing a lengthy letter to my social worker and patient advocate. Hopefully they can get satisfaction because I sure as hell can’t.

  39. James Mendenhall    

    The VAMC Johnson City need to start listening to us. I have been to several VAMC’s both here in TN and FL the VAMC in Johnson City is by far the worst.

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