By Paralyzed Veterans of America, Special for USDR
Paralyzed Veterans of America released the following statement from Deputy Executive Director Sherman Gillums, Jr. in response to Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald’s interview on Meet the Press.
“Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald told Meet the Press host Chuck Todd that he believes he can run the VA like a business. Given McDonald’s experience as the former CEO of Proctor and Gamble, he undoubtedly knows how to run a business. The question is whether a government agency with high costs and an extremely complex social mission can cure itself of the moral hazard and institutional inefficiencies that would’ve run any other business into extinction a long time ago. The answer: it had better.
Businesses rise and fall on their bottom line. For VA, that bottom line is not how much money it makes, although fiscal efficiency is a solid measure of performance. The value proposition that will sustain VA is the manner in which it delivers quality healthcare and administers full benefits in a timely manner. In the past, perceptions of whether VA was achieving that value were based on how well employees and managers saw their own performance and stuck to the rules. Now it’s about how well VA pleases its number one customers — the veterans who give VA its reason for being.
Increasingly, veterans and their advocates are being asked to make a choice between VA and the private sector in terms of healthcare. To VA’s credit, the incentive is increasingly less about bonuses or promotions that fly in the face of the Peter Principle. Now it’s job security. According to McDonald, 900+ VA employees no longer enjoy the security that government employment offers. But provoking real change may take firing 9,000 employees, particularly the hardliners who believe “this too shall pass” in response to calls for sweeping changes and greater accountability in VA.
Fortunately, Secretary McDonald appears willing to engage stakeholders and stare reality in its unforgiving face, which may explain the reason he’s been able to make incremental changes. Following the implementation of his MyVA initiative, McDonald’s VA has reduced the VA claims backlog, tackled veteran homelessness in the hardest hit areas like Los Angeles, and improved access to healthcare for veterans who once languished on waiting lists. More importantly, he sees his challenge as a business proposition and agrees with Paralyzed Veterans of America that VA must compete on its merits to win back the trust of the public.
President Herbert Hoover said, ‘Competition is not only the basis of protection to the consumer but is the incentive to progress.’ Progress in VA will hinge on whether the system and those who run it finally see the extraordinary task of taking care of veterans as an endeavor where exceeding customer expectations is the metric that matters above all else.”
About Paralyzed Veterans of America:
Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For nearly 70 years, we have ensured that veterans have received the benefits earned through their service to our nation; monitored their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funded research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis.
As a partner for life, Paralyzed Veterans also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces, provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation and advocates for veterans and all people with disabilities. With more than 70 offices and 34 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. (www.pva.org)