Veterans Attorney Jim Fausone Comments on VA Secretary’s Goals for 2016
Mar 8, 2016
Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) March 8, 2016 – Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald unveiled a 12-point plan of breakthrough priorities for his department in 2016 before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in January.
The list of goals included updating the VA website, modernizing hotlines, improving veterans’ health care access, reducing the disability claims backlogs, increasing employee training and tackling veteran homelessness. Four priorities focused on department needs while the other eight specifically served veterans. However, McDonald emphasized the ultimate outcome of all 12 aims would be to provide veterans with timely care and prompt benefits.
“The VA has outlined some ambitious goals. However, if the department does not deal with the accountability issues it is currently facing, the larger restructuring attempts will see little progress,” said Jim Fausone, a Michigan veterans attorney. “The overall aim of the VA’s efforts should be to put veterans at the forefront of all programs.”
One of the key challenges the VA faces is the growing backlog of benefits appeals cases. The decision time is often lengthened due to the current law which allows veterans to continually add evidence to their file. McDonald said he hoped to develop a more simplified appeals process and work with Congress on effecting changes.
In response to lawmakers’ criticism over the slow implementation of the new VA Choice Card program, McDonald shared plans to expand health care options outside the VA. He claimed the department has experienced difficulty in hiring qualified employees at VA medical centers nationwide due to negative publicity after the Phoenix patient wait times scandal.
Senators also complained about the VA’s lack of progress in maintaining accountability. They said more public firings of problem employees were needed. However, McDonald said 2,600 workers have been fired since he took office 18 months ago. He promised to implement a culture of change throughout the department.
The secretary reassured lawmakers that the VA’s ongoing reform efforts will yield significant changes for veterans in the coming year. “Our goal is to be the No. 1 customer service agency in government. We know we have a lot to do to get there,” he said.
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