A group of 20 military, veteran, and family organizations sent a letter to the President-elect Trump and his transition team urging them “to strongly consider the proven track record of the current VA [Department of Veterans Affairs] Secretary, Bob McDonald, who is leading the largest transformation in the department’s history” as they consider who will head the second largest department in the federal government.
In the letter, the groups state, “Transforming an agency as large and diverse as VA will take a continuous commitment from leadership over the course of many years. As you make your selection for VA Secretary, then, we advocate for an approach that recognizes and builds upon current progress. Given the challenges we face, we cannot afford to start over.”
Here’s the letter:
December 14, 2016
Mr. Donald Trump
Presidential Transition Team
Dear President-elect Trump:
As you correctly noted on the campaign trail, we owe our veterans better service than we as a nation are currently providing, and improving the current system at the Department of Veterans Affairs is a moral imperative. We look forward to working with whomever you select to lead your Administration’s efforts to build upon the reforms that have occurred since the Phoenix VA scandal. And while we all want these improvements to come at a faster pace, as a group of stakeholders working closely with or using VA services over the next 50-60 years, we support those who have proven their commitment and qualifications to getting it right.
While you continue your deliberations over who you will select to lead the Department of
Veterans Affairs, we ask you to strongly consider the proven track record of the current VA
Secretary, Bob McDonald, who is leading the largest transformation in the department’s history.
Over the past two years, Sec. McDonald has led an enterprise-wide transformation of the
second largest department in the federal government. These efforts to transform and modernize the VA are showing early signs of success in the form of a better veteran experience and, if continued, we believe they have the potential to eventually make VA a model agency. It is therefore of the utmost importance that you select someone willing and able to continue prioritization of this work. We believe that person is Sec. McDonald.
The changes underway at VA – currently branded as the “MyVA” initiative – are far
from complete, but they are starting to bear fruit. In a June 2016 VA survey, nearly 60 percent of veterans “trust[ed] VA to fulfill our country’s commitment to Veterans,” up from 47 percent in December 2015. In a 2016 survey of post-9/11 injured veterans, 69 percent said VA medical centers were the top resource used since deployment to address mental health concerns, up from 65 percent in 2015.
Over the past year, VA has conducted in-depth research to identify pain points and
understand veteran needs and expectations. To better align with those needs, it is consolidating its more than 500 existing veteran-facing websites into a single platform where veterans can check claim status, manage health care, and access education benefits and career training. It is modernizing its more than 200 call centers and launching a single telephone number through which veterans can reach any office at VA. And it is rewriting form letters to make them more accessible and easier to understand. These changes, among others, are happening because Sec. McDonald and the entire VA leadership team has committed to systematically tackling its problems in the way any well-functioning organization would – through holistic, evidence-based, 21st century solutions. The goal is to create a seamless, positive, veteran-centric experience.
Transforming an agency as large and diverse as VA will take a continuous commitment
from leadership over the course of many years. As you make your selection for VA Secretary, then, we advocate for an approach that recognizes and builds upon current progress. Given the challenges we face, we cannot afford to start over.
WILLIAM J. RAUSCH, Executive Director
Got Your 6
ROSANNE HAGGERTY, President and CEO
MIKE HAYNIE, Ph.D., Executive Director
Institute for Veterans & Military Families (IVMF)
GREGORY CAIAZZO, CAPT, CHC, USN, Retired President
Military Chaplains Association
JOSEPH R. CHENELLY, National Executive Director
BARBARA VAN DAHLEN, Ph.D., Founder and President
Give An Hour
PAUL K. HOPPER, Col USMC (Ret), National President
Marine Corps Reserve Association
MARY M. KELLER, Ed.D., President and CEO
Military Child Education Coalition
CARSON L. FOX, Jr., Chief Executive Officer
Nat’l Association of Drug Court Professionals / Justice For Vets
JOYCE WESSEL RAEZER, Executive Director
National Military Family Association
JUDY PATTERSON, CEO
Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN)
SPENCER KYMPTON, President
The Mission Continues
CHRIS FORD, USAF Retired, CEO
Nat’l Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations
JANAIA DeSHIELDS, Vice President
Veterans and Military Programs Points of Light
DAVID LANDYMORE, Executive Director
The 6th Branch
BONNIE CARROLL, President & Founder
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors
RYAN MANION BOREK, President
Travis Manion Foundation
SIDNEY ELLINGTON, Executive Director Warrior-Scholar Project
BRIAN “BR” McDONALD JR., Founder & President
Veteran Artist Program
MICHAEL S. LINNINGTON, Chief Executive Officer
Wounded Warrior Project, Inc.