On the eve of Veterans Day, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) calls on Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald to act swiftly and decisively to rebuild trust with veterans and improve access to timely, quality healthcare. We appreciate Secretary McDonald's 100 day quest to listen to stakeholders and truly understand the systemic management, accountability and process issues at VA. However, now it is time to urgently act on what he has learned. It will not be an easy process given the history and culture of VA. Promises have been made in the past with no results, so we sincerely hope Secretary McDonald will deliver, and in a timely manner.
The organizational changes he outlines sound promising, but lack any details or action plan with clearly defined milestone dates and outcomes. Flattening the organization to make it easier for veterans to navigate is important. Eliminating bureaucratic layers and stopping processes that use resources but produce no value or benefit for veterans are positive steps in the right direction, but thus far, the plan gives no concrete information on how he intends to accomplish these objectives.
Ultimately access to care is the issue Secretary McDonald must tackle quickly. Every day veterans are waiting to be seen for both physical and mental health issues. Based on WWP’s 2014 Annual Alumni Survey, we know our population of wounded veterans is increasingly seeking VA healthcare as they move further away from their military service. We also know that over 40% of our Alumni cite difficulties in scheduling appointments as the single largest barrier to obtaining the mental health treatment they need. With 22 veteran suicides each day, improving access to care must be a priority if VA is truly going to look through the lens of the veteran and deliver on its promises.