President Trump's VA
Well, we're a month or so into a new administration, which is generally where we start to see where the focus will go for DoD and VA. DoD he's been pretty clear about, expansion, modernization and ability to project more. VA has been a little less so, but it's starting to take form.
Dr. David Shulkin, the new secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, said Tuesday that he expects increases in the VA's $180 billion budget to come out President Donald Trump's proposals to slash domestic spending to pay for a military buildup.
"This looks like an increase in resources for us," Shulkin said to a small group of reporters after addressing the American Legion in Washington, D.C. He did not give figures but said, "I'm confident this budget is going to reflect the president's commitment to his ability to deliver on his promises to make veterans care better and stronger."
Shulkin said he plans to press ahead with tens of thousands of public safety and health exemptions for the VA from Trump's 90-day, across-the-board hiring freeze for federal agencies.
The VA is seeking 37,000 exemptions for 45,000 job vacancies, Shulkin said. "We have asked for it," and "we've received the full 37,000" from the White House.
In addition, Shulkin said he also will seek to fill jobs for claims processing at the Veterans Benefits Administration that would not qualify for public safety or health exemptions. He did not have a number for the jobs to be filled at VBA but said it is "probably in the hundreds."
During an appearance before the American Legion’s winter conference on Tuesday, Shulkin said his new 10-point plan will “take the best of VA and the best of the private sector, and make that work for veterans.” He also promised to work quickly on the reforms, saying many are facing deadlines or long overdue.
That 10 point plan is:
- New accountability legislation
- Extend the Choice deadline past August
- Choice 2.0 Legislation
- Infrastructure improvements and consolidations
- Enhance foundational services in VA
- VA/DOD federal coordination
- Electronic medical record modernization
- Breakthrough in suicide prevention
- Appeals modernization
- Accelerating performance on benefits claims
Now, none of those is really new with the exception of Choice 2.0. In fact, many have been the focus for a long time. But on the Choice expansion, Leo says:
But Shulkin is also promising that if he gets more money for the Choice Card program, he won’t be simply dumping the funding into a broken system.
“We want to come back and redesign the choice program so it actually works for veterans,” he told the Legion conference. “We know this program was way too complex, there were too many steps to go out and get the care that veterans need.”
Shulkin has already promised to eliminate program rules that limit outside care options to veterans who live at least 40 miles away from a VA facility or face a VA clinic wait time of more than 30 days. But those changes will also require congressional cooperation.
In a piece on Legion.org Henry Howard (our Depuity Director) expanded on modernization:
New Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said modernizing VA “is long overdue” during a speech Tuesday at The American Legion’s 57th annual Washington Conference.
“I believe that the VA system is a unique system. Not only is it a ‘system worth saving’ but essential for veterans and for the country,” Shulkin said, referencing The American Legion’s program in which it works with VA to evaluate its medical centers across the nation. “I am reminded that having come from the private sector how important it is to have a system that specifically cares for veterans.”
“In terms of modernizing the VA system, which is really where my focus is, I think it is important to remember that VA has historically contributed to not only health care but to all of America,” said Shulkin, who has been VA secretary for two weeks.
In a seperate piece at Military Times, Leo also covered the Trump address last night:
President Donald Trump promised to rebuild the military, boost veterans spending, defeat the Islamic State and force European allies to pay more for defense, all part of his wide-ranging address to Congress on Tuesday.
The commander in chief also promised an increase for the Department of Veterans Affairs, whose budget has nearly quadrupled to $180 billion since 2001. Trump argued that “our veterans have delivered for this nation and now we must deliver for them.”
It will be a while before we see the first real numbers, so everything is fairly vague of neccessity I guess, but at least we're seeing a bit more info coming out.