Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie State of VA Community Town Hall

hello I’m David Frank evallo with the
Veterans experience office today we are broadcasting live the first secretary
Wilkie stated the VA virtual community town-hall event we’ve invited folks from
across the nation for a community forum to be part of the conversation is
occlude the VSOs state and county nonprofits academia community Veteran
engagement boards community leaders federal non federal agencies advocates
stakeholders service providers Veterans families caregivers and survivors today
we’ll have two major fire parts the first 1.5 hours will include a
discussion of the state of the VA and the collective impact of the community
which we led by the senior leader of the VA followed by a Q&A panel featuring Jim
warts key executive director for community engagement and vo executive in
charge VHA dr. Richard Stone Undersecretary of benefits Dr. Paul
Lawrence and undersecretary memorial Affairs Randy Reeves the second panel
will feature alfie Alvarado Ramos president of the state v a National
Association of the State Department of Veterans Affairs
Herman brewer president of the National Association of County Veterans Service
officers and Anthony Wickham joint staff j1 personnel programs National Guard
Bureau Steven Austin senior executive se has three assistant chief of army
reserve office the commander Army Reserve they will discuss how they are
partnering with the VA to build capacity form partnerships and share what they
are doing with local communities to support veterans and their families
today’s vodcast will be recorded and posted on the VA v EO website post event
during the panel Q&A sessions we will try to get as many questions as we can
and those we cannot get to we’ll do our best to follow up and post answers on
the VA website visit /ve as in victor alpha it gives me great pleasure
to introduce the tenth secretary of the veteran
affairs the Honorable Robert Wilkie Mr Wilkie was confirmed by the United
States Senate on 23 July 2018 and sworn in on 30 July 2018
after early serving earlier serving as the VA as acting secretary before coming
to the VA Mr Wilkie was an Undersecretary of defense for personnel
and readiness the principal advisor to the secretary and deputy secretary on
defense on the total force management over 20 years of experience at the
national and international letter and as Undersecretary of defense Mr Wilkie
served under James Madison assistant secretary of defense he served under Bob
both Robert Gates and Donald Rumsfeld before that Mr Wilkie was a special
assistant to the president for national security affairs and a senior director
of the National Security Council for five years Mr Wilkie was vice president
for strategic programs for ch2m Hill one of the largest engineering and program
management firms in the world he is an officer in the United States Air Force
Reserve and he has previously served in the Navy Reserve with the Joint Forces
intelligence command methyls Naval Special Warfare group two and the Office
of Naval Intelligence I would also ignite to acknowledge that
he’s a fellow graduate of the US Army War College among his many awards and
decorations Mr Wilkie is a recipient of the Defense distinguished Public Service
Medal the highest non career civilian award for that department
ladies and gentlemen VA secretary mr. Robert Wilkie hello everyone thanks for
joining us you’ve heard it said before but it bears repeating we cannot do
everything for veterans alone we rely on community-based partnerships to serve
veterans so the work you’re doing at the grassroots level where veterans and
their families live and work is immensely important on behalf of all the
veterans we serve together thank you yesterday I testified before
the United States Senate about our vision for America’s veterans I’m glad
to report that after some turmoil in the first half of 2018 the state of our VA
is better it’s better because of the support of the President Congress in an
unprecedented series of legislative action
to reform VA and improve care and benefits for veterans and it’s better
because of great work VA employees are doing tackling tough issues that have
vexed us for decades and across the Carolinas during this time of great need
surrounding hurricane Florence VA employees have worked around the clock
to serve and protect veterans and provide foundational emergency response
from our government as a Carolinian I’m grateful to them on behalf of my fellow
veterans my family and my friends and I cannot begin to tell you how thankful
and how proud I am of all of them our priority at VA is customer service that
is my prime directive I’m privileged to champion vaz commitment to excellent
government service for all veterans service members their families
caregivers and survivors in delivery of care benefits and memorial services when
veterans come to our VA it is not up to them to get us to say yes it is up to us
to get veterans to yes that’s customer service excellent customer service is my
responsibility and the responsibility of all of our VA employees for the first
time we have a customer service strategy framework and governance structure and
VA is the customer service lead for the entire federal government we will be
guided by our core values integrity commitment advocacy respect and
excellence and we will strive to ensure consistent delivery of high quality care
benefits and memorial services many of you can help us in that sharing your
insights perspectives what you’re hearing from veterans will help make
sure there are no gaps in supporting veterans in your communities that’s a
lot that can happen in Washington DC but that’s not where the most important work
is the most important work happens at the local level communities have the
greatest potential to improve the quality of life for our nation’s
military veterans their families caregivers and survivors that’s why
we’re partnered with communities and stakeholders
they’re organizations across the country listening to you we’re learning we’re
building on the momentum of successful community engagement models was only
three years ago that the first community veterans engagement board met in
Connecticut today they’re nearly 150 we established the veteran friendly
communities initiative to encourage even more communities to organize those clubs
see Babs help veteran advocates service providers veterans and stakeholders to
identify community goals and resolve challenges locally than improved service
delivery and our veterans see tangible outcomes in Northeast Ohio in
collaboration with VA state county and community partners nearly 1,000 veterans
receive services in just two-and-a-half days they file claims
enrolled in health care and learned about their memorial benefits at Pikes
Peak they hosted a clergy training program in June that brought together
over 50 partners from across more than 40 organizations building relationships
promoting growth reaching more and more veterans and Families and we’re going to
continue strengthening strategic partnerships by leveraging a combination
of data tools and technology their force multipliers for each of our outreach
efforts RBA is giving veterans access to care and benefits a VA that veterans
choose because we offer world-class customer service across all of our
operations and we need you all of you to achieve that vision for veterans who
have given so much to America I’ll end with the story I’m very proud of and it
comes from President Eisenhower a few months after he was inaugurated
President Eisenhower was told that he had inherited a presidential yacht being
a man from America’s heartland President Eisenhower thought that the yacht was an
extravagance unworthy of a democracy at war but the one person whose orders he
could not counter manned Mamie told him that he needed to keep it but only take
it out when America’s warriors were on board
so a few months after the inauguration 40 Korean War soldiers some horribly
disfigured others missing limbs gathered on the yacht Williamsburg and many of
you have seen the Washington kabuki dance that followed the president got
into his limousine got to the Washington Naval Yard but before he could get on
the ship the Secret Service ran ahead of him to separate the commander-in-chief
from his troops as only a man like Eisenhower could do he yelled halt get
behind me I know these men he got up on the deck
and he asked those who could to stand at attention and he addressed them as a
commander addresses his troops he said that you will never put away your
uniform you live every day to remind Americans that the price of freedom is
never free and speaking in the same way that his friend from England George
Orwell did he said you also remind Americans that they sleep soundly at
night because of your sacrifice I can think of no better testament to the
mission of VA than to say that we’re about reminding our fellow citizens that
the cost of freedom is never free and we remind our fellow Americans while they
sleep soundly at night the future of our veterans is in your hands
and you’ve shown time and again that that’s well placed thank you and god
bless all of you and your families and god bless America’s warriors now let’s
take some questions Thank You mr. secretary
take some questions from our community audience in fact we’ve gotten hundreds
of questions in and I hope we can get to as many as we can for those that have
registered for today’s event you can type in your questions in real time
click ask questions to be part of our conversation sir the first question is
from Andrew in Orlando customer service is your highest priority for the VA and
your leadership what does good customer service look
like in the behavior of employees in the experience of veterans and their
families caregivers and survivors let me start off with a an answer that is
probably not one that we think of when we think of customer service as I’ve
said across our VA from Las Vegas to Boston customer service must fir
to begin with ourselves we have to talk to each other and with each other across
compartmented barriers within our VA so that we cross pollinate our ideas and
experiences with each other and we better prepare ourselves to serve and
honor our customers with effective benefits and health service delivery
that are easy to access we create a positive and consistent emotional
experience that is the heart of what we do
veterans and their families and caregivers will then trust and use VA
we’re actively implementing a customer-focused tool at our hospitals
and clinics to improve those experiences including we care rounding standard
phone greetings on the moment training and more importantly our red crow red
code ambassadors program to listen to our veterans voices and needs we’ve
built veteran signals a real-time survey feedback tool currently over 70% of our
outpatient feedback is positive and I was happy to tell the United States
Senate that yesterday but that said we also received concerns and
recommendations that focus on areas like safety pain management phone wait time
and travel pay that feedback allows us to pinpoint and improve those areas and
deliver better customer service thank you sir and we’re starting getting a lot
more questions and several compliments for thanking you for giving this
presentation in time today the next question is from Rob Robert Andy
Washington DC what can members of our sieve ABS and veteran friendly
communities do to best support your customer service goals
let me start talking about what I can do in my travels around the country I
interact with not only our political leadership but I interact with the media
and I’ve told our VA community that one of my most important duties is to tell
the good stories that are happening in VA across the country so in response my
charge to you is to get involved be our partner invite others to be part of a
see Babb or other veteran advocacy group and be part of the solution at the local
level tell us what your veterans and families need make improvements locally
such as filling gaps and transportation in respite care encourage our veterans
to complete our surveys we use those tools we read them and I was able to
report to the Senate about our most recent results yesterday give us the
information we need to improve services where it matters most I’m paying
attention to these and so are my leaders mr. Kerry Bob from Colorado Springs how
can communities help improve the customer service experience of service
members as they transition into veteran status well let me talk about what my
previous job was and what the response of secretary mattis was is to your
question previously I was the Undersecretary of defense for personnel
and readiness and I was charged with making that transition to veteran status
as easy as possible for those coming off of active duty we’ve initiated at the
Department of Defense a whole series of programs on education on transition on
education and on the services that are available to veterans in that transition
period between active service and veteran status I’m glad that we have a
partner in the Secretary of Defense I’m also glad that the Secretary of Defense
uses VA when he returns home to Washington to see his family several
times a year so we need everybody especially our sieve ABS to also connect
with service members during their transition back to civilian life start
doing that before they’re discharged through the re-entry process into their
new life and continue the support until they fully reintegrated back into our
communities I want to say one thing that I think is most important about VA we
speak a language that is unique the language of the military culture those
young people coming off of active duty know that they can reach out to us
because so many of us have shared their experiences in uniform so my charge is
also to reach out to the installations in your local community not just active
duty but to our Guard and Reserve components to invite them to join you
our Veterans Benefits Administration and the Department
of defense transition Assistance Program tap engage six months prior to discharge
and conduct targeted outreach twelve months post discharge to integrate
veterans into VA health benefits and services to get the items they need as a
civilian and the items they need to take care of their families we want you to
distribute welcome kits to service members in transition and to veterans
who may have used VA but can also still benefit from its services sir I think we
have time for just one more question Dan and Boothbay Maine what difference will
veterans and their families see and our customer service as a result of the
passage of the Mission Act will there be more access yes sir let me let me talk a
little bit about the past as we inform the future I am proud to tell people
that one of the joys of coming into this department every day is that I share the
office and the desk once owned by General of the army Omar Bradley who was
the head of the Veterans Administration immediately after World War two general
Bradley is probably not only the most famous be a leader but its most
visionary leader he was faced with the VA that was about to accept 11 million
American warriors coming off of active duty in World War two and he had to
figure out how we achieved a holistic approach to serving them by including
the civilian sector by including the academic sector by bringing the
Department of Defense into the mix and creating a formula by which we could
serve veterans best that has really been the way we function since the 1940s but
this mission Act that was passed this year will fundamentally transform
elements of EA’s healthcare system fulfill the president’s commitment to
provide veterans with more choice in their health care providers providers
closer to their homes and prevent a funding shortfall in the current
veterans Choice Program the Act will consolidate VA zku mmunity care programs
into a new veterans community care program this will strengthen VA by
merging the department’s community care programs into one system that is easier
to navigate for veteran VA employees and community partners this
helps us serve veterans better and helps veterans get the right care at the right
time where they need it our program of comprehensive assistance for family
caregivers is expanded to all eligible veterans of all eras of service that
means we have created we have redressed an historic wrong so for the first time
our family caregivers from Vietnam from Korea and World War two will now be part
of our VA family post 9/11 veterans have benefited greatly from this program and
we’re working with Congress to secure funding for this greatly needed
expansion we anticipate a hundred and fifty thousand veterans as I said of all
eras who may be eligible for the program when the changes are implemented as I
mentioned general Bradley this is the most transformative period in the
history of our department I think it’s exciting and I look forward to working
with all of you to implement it Thank You mr. secretary
well introduced our panels in one moment without further ado I would like to
introduce our distinguished VA panel first up Jim Ward’s key executive
director for community engagement in ve Oh veterans service members caregivers
survivors and community partners with us today welcome on behalf of dr. Linda
Davis who could not be with us today due to an injury
there’s our ve Oh pleasure to welcome you va is partnering with communities
across the country engaging our communities and stakeholder
organizations there’s a lot that can happen in Washington DC but the best
most tangible and most important work is caring for veterans that happens at the
local level thank you all for joining us today
we offer our gratitude to the volunteers and community partners who are
consciously to improve the lives of the veterans neighbors we recognize that
best solutions for veteran is not always going to be at a VA hospital or clinic
we understand by working together with community partners veteran benefits from
a better holistic veteran experience we are excited to share a modernized
outreach and engagement approach to synchronize and unify community efforts
and v—aids outreach offices to create an integrated feedback loop with
initiatives that are data-driven deliberate and intentional to improve
customer service the community partnerships we’ve seen tangible
outcomes such as collaborations with community veteran engagement boards and
community partnerships and the veterans experienced action centers where
recently has been referenced in Northeast Ohio 932 veterans exactly
receive services in two and a half days we will have pop-up action centers that
will place the communities where veterans reside
providing face-to-face services at communities where our veterans live VA
is also leaning forward and working with DoD to fill a gap where a Reserve
Component and National Guard reside to ensure they
have resources and information needed for them to enable a smooth transition
with the VA door collaboration with DoD building healthy military communities
initiative we’re ensuring BH FC has an understanding of collaborations and
effort already in place in communities by listening to all of you we have
continued to learn and are now in the process of building on the momentum of
the successful community engagement model and a familiar term you know as a
community veteran engagement boards see beds as you’ve heard and as we call it
our combat multipliers they are grassroots collaborative networks
working together with one goal in mind improving the outcomes for veterans
service members caregivers and survivors we modeled our C verbs off of a
successful community veteran advocacy group across the u.s. specifically San
Diego’s one VA board we needed that same spark and passion that embodied to
ignite across the nation now we have 149 C verbs across the country and that
number is growing these communities are fired up to come together and improve
the lives of the veteran residents to those groups that are already meeting
the needs of their communities we say thank you we want to join you please
please let us be a more integrated part of your solutions in areas where groups
don’t exist we hope to inspire a community movement with local leaders if
you are interested please contact us we have the tools at framework and will
help you across that finish line see verbs are about getting all the right
people who can make a difference in a community at the same table to work
collectively not competitively we have the same mission Drive and passion to
make a difference in our veterans lives but we have to do it together once again
collectively that’s when and where we can create a sea
sniff acun and lasting change at the end of the day it’s not the VA experience
that matters most but the veterans experience Sivas provide a forum for
veterans to easily identify and reach people who can help them voice their
opinions and provide valuable input to improving resources designed to serve
their needs starting with our local VA leaders in your community we’re building
stronger relationships to work in tandem with the best solutions for our veterans
where they live and work see beb’s create networks improve access
to resources bridge gaps and create local solution what works in
Jacksonville Florida may not work in Madison Wisconsin and that’s okay but
from Anchorage to Houston Pittsburgh to tamper more than 12.5 million veterans
and 50 million families caregivers and survivors currently reside in an area
supported by a sieve AB one day we hope to expand the footprint to see verbs of
course all communities to foster a coordinated system of care where
veterans and their families thrive it’s very important to understand this
principle though see verbs are not about the VA at all there are grassroots
movement focused on helping veterans with the support they need right where
they are the VA does not own see vets we do however support and assist what the
see vets tell us is important to their communities see verbs are community
initiatives local induced initiatives they include representatives from all
parts of the VA but are driven by local community leaders that’s why I see verbs
are so effective they can reach and help veterans places that the VA cannot do
alone VA has enormous resources see verbs are one of our conduits for
communities to access those resources we want see maps to see those resources as
their tools we want see verbs to see the VA
as their partner well we want see reps to CVA as a tool make no mistake about
it we are also using si verbs as one of our tools and that tool is to listen see
verbs act as a megaphone from the community directly into the ears of our
hospitals benefits and cemetery directors we are listening we are
listening in your communities through si verbs we are listening in our facilities
with the veterans experience feedback tool a powerful new survey connecting
with veterans immediately at the time of their VA interaction we are listening to
your trending issues to the VA to the White House VA hotline a 24/7 call
center we are listening to you to the veterans family caregiver and survivor
Advisory Committee chaired by senator Elizabeth Dole we are listening and we
are acting we’re implementing new customer service training to improve the
patient and benefit experience based on what you’ve told us we’re creating new
opportunities for veterans to receive more care at home instead of at assisted
care facilities we’re creating a culture within VA that ensures the process is
centered on what makes sense for veterans not the VA human centered
design principles are at the core of all efforts and see verbs or evidence of
that please engage with us tell us what we can do better tell us what is working
tell us what is not visit our website for tools best practices and frameworks
that we have developed based on your successes to maximize our collective
impact and at the end of the day what truly matters is improving care and
services to our veterans you are making such incredible impact and our team at
the veterans experience office and I thank you for everything you do on
behalf of Linda Davis our chief veteran’s experience officer and our
team thank you for joining us today and working with us to improve the veterans
experience thank you David I’d like to next introduce executive in
charge VHA talk to Richard Stone thank you
first of all let me begin by saying thank you to the secretary and thank you
to Linda Davis for the leadership that she’s shown and making customer service
the centerpiece of our transformation I’m very proud to be with you today
and represent the 300,000 plus employees of the Veterans Health Administration
who care for more than nine and a half million veterans who have really engaged
in us the ability to deliver excellent health care they’ve in that engagement
they’ve expressed a trust in us that trust is a sacred trust that we don’t
take lightly we recognize that there’s nearly 20 million veterans in this
nation only about half of them have really sought care from us we believe
that this customer service effort should be the centerpiece that brings the other
10 million plus veterans to us for their care the secretary talked about some of
the work that we’re doing but remember that in the VHA we have four primary
missions the first I’ve talked about slightly which is the the delivery of
health care and I’ve talked about the trust that goes into the decision a
veteran makes when they come to us for that care but our second mission is
research and that research is entrusted to us almost two billion dollars a year
in American taxpayer dollars to do research on the injuries that are
sustained in service as well as the diseases that occur as the result of
service we’re very proud of the research that’s being done and we’re very proud
of the nearly 1,700 academic affiliations we have around the United
States and the world that supports that research
our third mission is training more than 70% of the physicians in this nation are
trained in VA hospitals and VA health care institutions I am one I completed
my training and the old Ann Arbor VA that is now the Detroit VA and I’m quite
proud to say that my relationship to the VA has remained ever since finally our
fourth mission is our emergency response capability we are the safety net for the
American people when a disaster happens whether it is a shooting in Orlando at a
nightclub or it is hurricane Florence coming up the East Coast today as we
speak there are hundreds of VA employees delivering hurricane response in
southern Virginia North Carolina and South Carolina in our mobile clinics
that we placed because the destruction of some of our community-based clinics
or in individual shelters where they’re seeking veterans who need help
prior to the arrival of Florence more than 11,000 at-risk veterans were
contacted by VA employees to ensure their safety to ensure their oxygen
supply was right to ensure if they had limited mobility they were safe they
were moved if necessary and the hospitals that we moved them to we
assured were in in safe environments the second area of an important
transformation as part of this customer service transformation that we’re
talking about is becoming a learning organization and what I mean by that is
we need to in a much more rapid manner deliver the results of our research in
our advances or our best practices across this very large system today it
takes us too long to take a best practice that might occur in a hospital
in South Carolina and propagated across our system part of becoming a learning
organization is empowering our employees at the
appropriate level to make decisions not dependent upon senior leadership’s
concurrence but when a decision seems right to move forward with it finally I
want to talk a little bit about modernization of our system which is a
third pillar of our transformation modernizing the centerpiece of
modernization is our electronic health record modernization from our current
Vista system which has served us so well for many decades to the new Cerner
system which will be the same as the Department of Defense we do this because
it forces us to re-examine all of our business processes it forces us into a
common platform to share data for the benefit of active duty servicemen and
the lifetime of our veterans it helps us modernize how we operate but most
importantly it gives our veterans a uniform experience when they come to see
us I invite your participation in this effort but most importantly I invite
your support and your counsel as we go forward later in this this panel you
will hear from a number of our county and state partners we are dependent upon
them to help be our eyes and ears as we go through this modernization towards
truly great customer service thank you it’s my honor now to introduce
Undersecretary of benefits dr. Paul Lawrence thank you David the Veterans Benefits Administration
distributes and manages the benefits that veterans have earned on the right
you can see our portfolio of products that we take care of let me go home
through and highlight a couple compensation is the payments we make to
veterans who have suffered a service related injury while they were
servicemembers as you can see our projections are that will pay over five
million veterans ninety five billion dollars we run a pension program for
veterans who are in difficult situations education refers to most regularly the
GI Bill service members became veterans they earned benefits to go on and be
educated and that’s the GI Bill VR&E stands for voc rehab
that’s our counseling effort to veterans you need special attention and help as
they transition back into the workplace and housing refers to the VA back
mortgages that we administer so people can one day own a home and build wealth
and finally the insurance portfolio is something as mr. Wilke points out in
reference to the 100 years ago World War one ended the insurance portfolio is
also a hundred years old and it’s actually the twelfth largest insurance
portfolio in the United States where we pay veterans who invested in insurance
planning for the future and amongst the reason they invest in US based on our
surveys is the trust they have that they’ll actually get their money and
their lower right you can see that we have a very large footprint across the
United States and into territories and well as employing more than 20,000
employees in the VBA the next slide talks about some of our priorities and
like dr. stone we also have three priorities the first one on the
upper-left talks about providing veterans their benefits in a manner that
honors their service this is very similar and Mister of war Mr Wilkie here
I say identical to his theme on customer service but we chose this language so it
captures Mr Wilkie points out that special nature of veterans dealing with
veterans that there’s something very special about that and then what we do
at VBA is some things that our veterans experience in the regular world we
answer phones we processes case we open mail their expectations that we’ll
deliver very strong if not world-class service and that’s what we’re striving
for below I listed some of the accomplishments and the
hundred days I’ve been and I’ve been here we’ve done things like streamline
the headquarters at VBA so we could allocate some more resources to a new
office it’s called Oh Ted the office of transition and economic development so
we can better help veterans reintegrate into the the working world in addition
we’ve hired more VR ne counselors first because it’s the right thing to do and
second because we’re required by law so we can provide more customized attention
to our veterans as they transition back in the middle we talk about fiscal
stewardship with over a hundred billion dollars to distribute it’s very
important and we understand its importance to treat this money carefully
and accurately this is something we take very seriously the accomplishments we
focused on are watching out for fraud waste and abuse and improper payments we
understand the very sacred trust the American people have given us with this
large sum of money we want to make sure we’re paying very special attention to
that and finally on the right hand side we’re talking about fostering a culture
of collaboration this is understanding as everyone spoken about today that VA
is important in this veterans journey but we also do with many other people
VBA we work very closely with the veteran’s service organizations and the
county and state folks who you hear from in a few minutes is dr. stone spoke
about their very special partners we make efforts to engage them directly and
regularly on a formal agenda we deal with engagement across our organization
we have a director’s Advisory Council so we can hear from folks in the field
delivering services to veterans as well as being part of the broader VA
Enterprise so that we stay connected to that extent and finally I listed the
portfolio of products and things we do at the very first slide but I think it’s
also important to take a step back and think about how we really think about
VBA and what it does and I think about VBA helping veterans you know kind of
succinctly helping them realize the American Dream and let me explain for a
minute if you go back to the Declaration of Independence you’ll recall the phrase
life liberty and the pursuit of happiness well this time pursuit of
happiness meant economic well-being and prosperity and if you think about the
programs we have and the times that mr. willing could talk about general Bradley
showing up to run the for the beginning of the VA you begin to see that
time the World War two had ended it was coming to an end his people were
planning for what would happen to the veterans as they were returned how would
they reiterated to the working world and this is when the GI Bill first would
appeared folks were also wearing about where would they live that’s when the
home loan product started and then of course it grew we had compensation for
people who had been injured appeals and the like in that sense voc rehab
counselors and insurance for planning these were the products and the
activities that people could do to reintegrate and find a good career and
get back into what they had done before they’ve gone off to protect us the
office of transition and economic development is very important to us
because we want to help people understand the portfolio of these
benefits you may be able to understand exactly what you need
but what we’re thinking about is how the world is changing take a service member
who enlisted when he or she was 17 or 18 and comes out now three or four years
later perhaps they have no role models in their life of what they did for
higher education and this is a good example to contrast for say 50 years ago
that period of time higher education meant going to college but now of course
as many opportunities it could be college it could be an apprenticeship it
could be online learning these things might be difficult to handle and we know
VBA can help folks conversely are also aware that folks who are not younger are
now experiencing differences in the working world jobs have changed new
skills are needed and they’re turning to VBA so we see that there’s an active
role for us to play as people begin to realize the American Dream and take
advantage of all the benefits they’ve earned so I agree with Mr Wilkie and
others who have spoken it’s really an exciting time to be here at the VA the
president value is what we’re doing the Congress has been very generous
everybody is rooting for us to succeed we’re very excited as Jim has pointed
out we’ll all look forward to working together on this mission thank you and
finally the Honorable undersecretary memorial Affairs Randy Reeves thank you
David it’s my honor to be a part of this team
here serving our veterans each and every day it’s also my honor to be able to
speak to the vast audience of people devoted to serving veterans across
America as a Navy and Air Force veteran self it is my privilege to carry on
President Lincoln’s legacy to honor veterans in perpetuity I’m not just the
undersecretary for cemeteries I’m the undersecretary for memorial
affairs and our mission at NCA is to do everything possible to truly memorialize
those who have worn the cloth of our nation our vision at NCAA is simple and
it’s very straightforward our vision is to ensure that no veteran ever dies it
has been said that each and every one of us died two deaths we die the first
death when breath leaves us for the very last time but we only truly die and at
the time no one speaks our name or tells our story it is that second death that
we are committed to making sure our veterans never experience the National
Cemetery administration is comprised of 136 national cemeteries across the
nation and we provide perpetual care to over four and a half million veterans
and their family members we maintain over 9,000 developed acres of national
shrines and of course we could not do this alone in fiscal year 17 alone
volunteers donated almost four hundred and sixty-six thousand volunteer hours
and service to our national cemeteries we also partner with a hundred and
eleven National Cemetery administration grant funded state and tribal cemeteries
to make sure that this mission is is taken care of
each and every day for our veterans in the past nine months I’ve visited nearly
50 national state and tribal veterans cemeteries across the country I see the
pride in all of our team members and maintaining these hallowed grounds and
over and over I hear them say I treat each veteran and family member as if it
were my mother or my father and that’s the truth that’s exactly what they do
each day in my world there are two type of heroes there are veterans and there
are those who serve veterans we are fortunate in the National Cemetery
administration too happy to be among both types of heroes
in the next few slides I’ll highlight some efforts that we’re doing to achieve
those three priorities that are on the slide you’re seeing right now one of our
key initiatives is the veterans legacy program recently I was down in Florida
when a student told me that the combat veteran that he was researching served
in World War one he was a graduate student and I asked the young man what
was important about the veterans legacy program to him and what he said to me is
sir I was able to bring my veteran back to life the veteran that he had
researched was a World War one veteran who had been lost to history
but through his research and through his work that veteran is now being his story
is being told and his name is being spoken and he will never be forgotten we
currently have partnerships in ten universities across six states and our
goal is to partner with universities and organizations in each of our 50 states
and also in our territories with the veterans Legacy Program as a part of
this program we have professors and teachers who have do extensive research
on our veterans I recently received a note from Miss Allison Browning from JP
McCaskey high school in Lance castor Pennsylvania she wrote me it has been
awesome to research a war war one fallen hero from Pennsylvania who is buried at
Fort Indiantown Gap it has been wonderful to visit the World War one
sites in Europe and it really put historical events and battles into
context and perspective I am excited to share what I learned through this
process with my community my colleagues and my students and that’s really what
this program is all about is to take that information back to the communities
and to bring that that information to our students to our young people so that
they can be a part of this national movement to make sure that our veterans
are honored forever and I’d ask each and every one of you to take a look at our
legacy web page and it’s located on our webpage at
CEM someday we’ll be able to walk up to
headstones and use a smart device to be able to interpret the letters that are
on a headstone and that will and at that point you’ll be able to pull up the
history and the information about a veteran of their service what they’ve
done even after service pictures photos uploaded by families and a number of
other things well that times now we are just about
ready to launch our digital platform so that we will be able to have that in
each of our national cemeteries so that the public can go there and be able to
access information about our veterans at any time using this digital platform
I’ve been down and tested the prototype in Florida and it works and it’s a
wonderful wonderful tool to memorialize our veterans in such a special way today
over ninety two percent of America’s veterans have a burial option in a
national state or tribal cemetery within 75 miles of their home our goal is to
reach 95 percent by the year 2022 we’re ahead of schedule I might note and we
have not forgotten about what I call the hardest five percent that’s that other
five percent of veterans that live mainly in our highly rural areas across
the nation we’re working with Congress and communities and many many others to
make sure that we put programs in place so that they can be honored like the
rest of our veterans across the country this is why I’m excited to end my prison
presentation talking about the successful partnership we have with
state and tribal governments in a 111 state and tribal veteran cemeteries that
complement our national cemeteries by providing veterans with additional
dignified burial options we are providing a service that we could not
otherwise provide in burial benefits to as many veterans as we do across the
nation in FY 17 the 38,000 interments that are listed on the slide
that you’re seeing translates into about 22% of all the burials in national state
and tribal cemeteries that’s significant I believe that this is one of the most
effective no I don’t believe I know that this is one of the most effective state
and federal partnerships in our entire government veterans and their families
live in local communities and no one knows them better than our local
partners I believe that we can best serve our veterans by empowering inane
and enabling our state and local partners as I said before that’s where
our veterans live locally thank you for caring so much about America’s veterans
and thank you for this opportunity to be able to speak to this audience
thank you David thank you at this time we’re gonna take some questions from our
community on it’s in fact we’ve received twelve hundred and sixty-four questions
so we’re gonna give to as many as we possibly can
the first question I don’t have a name on it but the question is how can I have
a voice in the community on the services I received from the VA and what is the
VA doing with communities to support us where we live Jim I think that might
fall here let me start off this answer VA is listening to the veterans voices
and their families across communities through various outreach and engagement
efforts in addition to data tools and technology that enable a modernized
approach to improve how we do business we are synchronizes community engagement
efforts and outreach efforts to create an integrated feedback tool with
initiatives that are data-driven deliberate and intentional to improve
customer service so we are measuring trust easy motion effectiveness at all
VHA facilities in fact with about 150,000 surveys per week to veterans we
are able to pinpoint opportunities for improvement and you know actually at
this time I mentioned VHA in the 150,000 surveys so dr. stone if you wish to
comment on our emphasis and he listening to the veterans in and medical
centers in our communities so first of all Jim thanks and and I we we all
appreciate the surveys that are being done and and they help give us an
important pulse check of how we’re doing with the veterans that we’re serving I
think I think I’d like to go back to the question and that is how do I have my
voice heard and I think it’s really important for us to recognize the fact
that we we need to be responsive to the veteran community and I talked during my
my more formal comments about the veterans that have chosen us and those
that haven’t that voice can be heard through the VSOs so I encourage your
participation in the VSOs or if that’s not appropriate for you I encourage you
to reach out to places like our vet centers that are distributed in 300
different locations around the United States that you can reach out to and
come in and really discuss your needs and they can connect you into our
systems I think that the thirdly just reaching out to the healthcare
institutions and saying you know how can I be a volunteer how can my voice be
heard the secretary talked about our red coats those are great ways for people to
begin to participate with us help them to understand what we’re about and help
them to recognize the fact that our doors are open and we want your input so
Jim thanks thank you next question looks like this is for you
mr. Reaves my community where can I learn about
legacy programs at our local VA cemetery and it’s followed by a second part of
that question how can the university I work with getting more information about
the legacy program well Jim our thank you for that that question and first of
all our Legacy Program all the information is on our website at WWE MVA
CoV anyone can also call our legacy office at two zero two four six one five
three six two but to answer the question colleges and universities can apply for
grants to be able to serve in this capacity where they do research each and
every day in our national cemeteries people can learn about the program as it
is right now on our website and they can also learn about it by calling our
legacy office they’ll send you information all you have to do is call
them I know that we’ll post all of the information that I just stated after you
know with this program secondly I encourage if you are a veteran service
organization if you’re a community partner if you’re in a sea vibe or if
you’re a veteran in your community encourage your local university college
or nonprofit organization who may be doing this kind of work to contact us so
that we can help them through the granting process because as I said
before we want to extend this to every state in the nation so that all of our
veterans can be remembered forever and so that we can as I said make sure that
no veteran ever dies thank you very much appreciate miss Reeves the next one is
actually a compliment thanking us for putting on this presentation the next
question I have is from Dave in New Mexico tell me more about the mission
Act and anything new on the new GI bill why don’t I start with the new GI bill
so the the new GI bill is mr. Wilke pointed out was one of a series of laws
passed in 2017 to you know help veterans some sections of the bill went into
effect immediately in August of 2017 but a bulk of them seventeen sections of the
bill we’re going to effect on August 1st of this year we implemented 15 of those
sections on time and the last two that remained have to do with some technology
issues those are going a little slower than we estimated but in terms of
veterans going to school and being paid we’ve made a commitment from the very
beginning that that would happen so as we saw this kind of coming into focus we
hire 200 additional people to manually process the veterans
checks and there are housing allowances in the like so everyone’s getting paid
unfortunately it’s on last year’s rates but we only think they’re about one
percent off on the new rates as we understand them so our commitment is you
will get paid you all should be able to go to school the schools know this and
our commitment is that if we overpaid you you can keep the money and if we’ve
underpaid you once we get things back up and going we will reconcile that so you
get the additional money so our intent is to veterans to go to school that’s
what’s happening and it’s much more about you know understanding the
situation we’re in and how we’re gonna make it right when it all is up and
going so let me jump into this and pull thanks for your answer and Dave thanks
for a good question the mission Act will fundamentally
transform the Health Administration and let me begin by saying it closes out the
choice Act which was put in place after our access crisis of 2014 and moves us
from more than a dozen different ways of buying care in the community to a single
method and you so you’ll see at the end of this year or end of this calendar
year you’ll see us executing some contracts that allow us to more
effectively by care in the community it also allows us to recognize the role of
caregivers across all ages and service areas of veterans and currently we can
only support caregivers for those post 9/11 families that’s just inappropriate
and thankfully the mission Act will allow us to recognize caregivers that
are supporting our great veterans at home over first our pre Vietnam and
Vietnam era and then secondly about 24 months later between the Vietnam era and
the 9/11 veteran and so within the next two years
all families will have this benefit available to them
I think thirdly it begins to clarify demands that we do a complete study of
the healthcare delivery system that’s been in place since 1947 well frankly
since 1947 many of our veterans have moved veterans aren’t in the same spots
that they used to be or where we have institutions and it demands that we
study beginning this fall all 98 of our service delivery areas and then emerge
from that two-year study to a commission that will begin to evaluate whether we
have the right footprint in place for the future for the next 10 to 20 to 40
years so those are some of the things that the mission Act does thank you very
much we’re getting a lot of questions on choice and Community Care Network what
changes will the Mission Act bring to the choice program and how do you plan
on communicating to the public this is a generic question from several of our
audience participants and I think it reflects the fact that our current more
than dozen ways that we’re buying care is incredibly confusing and is confusing
to the veteran is confusing to providers and the idea of unifying into a single
method of buying care will make it much easier for us to assure payment to
providers assure participation of providers but make it much easier for
veterans to understand when they’re eligible for care and when they need to
come to us for their care now it does not remove our role in helping to
integrate what can be some very complex care for our veterans because of the
complexity of their service related disabilities or injuries and it keeps us
in partnership with them for the future but it does allow us to be able to say
to a veteran in a very clear manner you’re eligible for care and in the very
near future you will hear us announce the access standards for when you’re
eligible for care in the community and when you’re not and the Secretary is in
the final stages of really working their way through that decision on Act
standards thank you very much mr. undersecretary again I’m getting a lot
of comments during the questions like if I’m having an issue if I’m having a
problem who do I contact and I’d like at this point if I can give out the
president’s pledge the White House hotline and that number is eight five
five and I’m going to repeat this eight five five nine four eight two three one
one again eight five five nine four eight two three one one and as part of
the customer experience let me turn that back to the distinguished panel how if I
have an issue with the VA or any of the services who would I get ahold of so for
VBA for many of the issues I talked about calls to that number emails to our
website and the like get instant attention on our website we have
different call numbers for the different services the GI Bill and the like so
it’s all right there my monitor carefully the the attention we pay to
those some are complex and they get individually researched others are our
requests for information so we try to have as much up there so people can
access the benefits in addition as I indicated my formal remarks we answer a
lot of phone calls trying to step the veterans through the process one thing
that I would like to comment on that though is that as these calls are coming
in quite often we look at the trends on them we look at the analysis so if there
is a situation that’s happening we look at a long-term solution so we can settle
it so we’re not just taking individual calls in solving but we look at
potential problems that we will solve so we appreciate these calls coming into
the White House outline because that gives us an opportunity to analyze our
systems and react to once again we’re working through modernization and we’re
trying to improve the process to serve our veterans better thank you the next
question it’s coming and I don’t have a name on this first I would like to say
thank you for the VA helping me get my life back on track I truly appreciate it
I have chronic pain I’ve been a chronic pain patient severe cervical back damage
I’ve been taking narcotic pain medications is the Willing VA willing to
start looking into experimental medications and alternate treatments
so I mean it’s most appropriate I take that one I think so absolutely
look it is a national tragedy the fact that we have so many of Americans that
are addicted to narcotics across this nation the VA I’m very proud of in that
we have worked tirelessly to try and find alternatives for opioids for for
relief of chronic pain so we have looked at holistic approaches from acupuncture
to yoga therapy to massage therapy to actually synthetic alternatives in fact
we have just started a study in the non psychotropic portion of marijuana that
we have started looking at that chemical for what effect it may have for both
chronic pain as well as post-traumatic stress disorder and so we’re more than
willing to look at it we need to find alternatives to what has been a 30-year
saga of increasing use of of narcotics for chronic pain and I’m quite pleased
that we’re in the forefront of that work the next question is there a place to
make suggestions on how to prove the VA and are there any other sites other than
my healthy vet that I can go to yeah I think there’s lots of ways to come to us
for improvement and I think you can get on to our websites and and and leave us
suggestions I think you can using kiosks in our institutions should you have an
appointment that things just don’t go the way you think they should you can
leave us feedback that way I think both Paul and Randy have talked about ways
that you can you can come to us but you can call the executive management at any
one of our hospitals and and we will route you into the place that you need
to be to give us support and suggestions we speak monthly or more frequently if
necessary with our VSO partners who are in our institutions and helping us
understand where we can do better and so Paula Randi I don’t know if you have any
other suggestions yes we received tremendous feedback from the VSOs is
often somebody helping them guide through the process as well so that’s
one of the most effective ways our call centers and the like take information
too but the VSOs are very helpful to us well now I would add to that one of the
individuals it’s going to be on the panel just a little bit later from the
National Association of state directors of Veterans Affairs in your in your
individual states you have directors of Veterans Affairs and departments of
Veterans Affairs and we are closely linked with each and every one of those
and we work with them as Paul and enriched pointed out with our veteran
service organizations but we also work with our state partners and you can
reach those issues through them just as well as reaching out directly to us if
you leave us a comment in any of our administrations on any of our our media outlets or ways of communication like
Facebook or other things we respond to each and every one of those so reach out
to us in any way that you can connect with us and if you recall we had talked
about the community better and engagement boards in which to them and
we include not only state but also the county commissioners and the local
volunteers and we are pleased to gather up all the information I’m very proud to
say that about 70 percent of the feedback that we receive is positive so
we want to hear we’ve said that the C verbs are there to listen we want to put
out information but we also want to listen we listen well and we listen for
good bad and indifferent information so please keep those flow of information
back and forth with us because we want to be part of your communities and we
want to hear what the issues are so thank you our next question from
Margaret Ann I really appreciate what the VA has done for me what is being
done though about the appeals backlog a great question that refers to the
appeals of your eye location for compensation for service
related disability and you’re right over the last three or four years this had
ballooned up there’d been a huge backlog and the old appeal process often took
somewhere from three to seven years as it went through the process again going
back to 2016 when the VA the hill the VSOs got together and and essentially
overhauled the appeals process that was instituted into legislation in 2017 and
we’re in the process of rolling it out which will start in February of 2019 so
we’re in the process of you know implementing a new appeals process to
things along the way one is we’re running a project now called rapid
appeals modernization program ramp where you can opt in to the process of having
your appeal considered under these new expedited lanes or sub process of it and
that’s going quite well if you’re you rather not here if you rather your
appeal not wait 1,500 days in the old process these are now being processed in
70 to 90 days and and people are getting their claims settled in addition just so
you know even once we have the new appeals process in place we’ll still
have a significant backlog and our commitment is to get the backlog down to
zero by the end of 2020 we’ve heard a lot about reestablishing public trust as
the under secretaries how do you plan on doing that with your individual
administrations let me just start by saying first of all in the National
Cemetery administration we realize that we only have one opportunity to get it
right and we engage with our veterans our
communities and family members with that being the first thing in mind from our
perspective that’s how we maintain the trust that we have across the nation is
to make sure that we’re getting it right every time and that we put ourselves as
I said before in the place of the people that we are serving each and every day
and I believe in my in the National Cemetery administration our customer
service satisfaction ratings and all of those things bear that out for us
or at the top of all industry and I think that VA in general is improving
every day in our ability to reach out and to gain the trust of America and
America’s veterans and I’m proud to just be a part of this let me let me thank
you for the question because it is at the center point of what we’re about in
VHA and in restoring the trust of the American people and the people of VA the
only way you gain trust is to be reliable and what I mean by that is when
you come in for health care you expect it to occur in a certain manner and you
expect to emerge from that with exactly what you signed up for and without being
harmed and across American health care in general there is too much harm done
so you will hear us talking about across our entire delivery system of getting to
zero and what we talked about in that is about reducing harm to zero in our
processes but it is about reliable processes so that every time you contact
us every time you call us every time you come to us for a visit
it occurs in the manner that you expect it meets your needs and if for any
reason it doesn’t meet your needs that we respond to that quickly and
appropriately to bring it back to where you needed it to occur but that’s the
only way we restore the trust of the American people and I might just like to
add I’m I’m I’m not so certain as a question to trust I understand your
point dr. stone as Jim points out our trust doors are going up and that tracks
with what we see at VBA again in my formal remarks our insurance product is
well understood because people do trust they will get paid and that’s not always
the way insurance works I also think in VBA we think about it as meeting rising
expectations again we deal with a lot of processes that people experience
elsewhere phone calls interactions and the like and we know those expectations
are being raised every day so we need to stay abreast or if ahead of that we talk
about delivering world-class service to let everyone know we are serious about
what we’re doing and want the experience you have with all of
us in VA to be as good or better than anything else you’re experiencing
elsewhere thank you one of the foundations of trust and my opinion is
in the communities and we need to be as transparent as possible to believe in us
we want a partner and I mentioned earlier that the VA is communicating you
were putting out information to the communities but more importantly we’re
listening and we want to hear it and the second step for that to build that trust
is to continue in taking action and what we hear and that’s what we’re doing
that’s the direction we’ve been going on and I look forward to the future where
our trust values would go up even higher as we serve our communities partnering
with our communities and working with the trust factor increasing guadalupe
asks is it true that all the 88 claims will be mandatory for the ramp program a
veg well yes and no eventually into the future that will be but right now ramp
is an opt-in and opt in opt in suggests the selection another question for VHA
what type of customer service training do you have ongoing for your facilities
well Linda Davis is leading an extraordinary effort that Jim is part of
and leading and so let me defer to Jim but let me say to you that more than 124
of our our institutions have already been through this customer service
training it’s about owning the moment and so Jim
let me defer to you where the my pleasure my pleasure and and truthfully
I’m not the expert although I had a wonderful experience and seeing on the
moment the rest of the ve team by miss Hightower yes they did a great job on
the moments as a px opportunity led by Jennifer Purdy one of my peers in our
organization she’s doing an excellent job for us so keep up the good work
Jennifer and I understand that there’s only about ten more facilities within
VHA to learn about on the moment and that’s only a point of it and then from
there we go to VBA and we go to the other administrations to teach it
because as I mentioned it by presentation we’re listening to the
communities we know we have to improve customer service and now we take it some
profession all ways of going about teaching every
staff member throughout the 360,000 plus employees on what customer service is
like so we will improve in doing that on the moment is only a small effect of
what VHA and Jennifer’s team has done for us let me just jump back onto that
today as we’re sitting here there there will be more than 250 thousand doctor
and clinical appointments completed within VHA every one of those has at
least six employee contacts to me that’s that’s more than a million opportunities
to do it right this also gives us some opportunities if we don’t do it right
for that system or that process not to meet the needs of that patient so we
appreciate what you brought to us we appreciate the partnership and that is
really what we mean about owning the moment but understanding the
opportunities we have in interacting with our patients and our beneficiaries
as we continue with our own the moment than VHA coming to a conclusion but
they’ll also be additional but we look forward to serving with benefits and
with the National Cemetery organization next question hi I’m a 73 year old
Vietnam veteran honorably discharged in 1968
I’m a resident Michigan I’m curious can I be buried in the Black Hills National
Cemetery in Sturgis South Dakota the simple answer is yes if you’re a veteran
and eligible for burial in one National Cemetery you’re eligible for burial in
all of our national cemeteries so yes Lyle any of the national cemeteries next
question was for Robert Wilkie but I’m gonna probably be a chaser and this is
how exactly our VA hospitals and clinics funded who determines who gets what by
state by the federal government so our funding comes through the federal
government as part of the federal budget and the interesting thing about the way
it is funded is we are funded in an advanced appropriation and that what
means that we’re not liable when people start talking
about they can’t reach agreement in Congress and on a budget that might shut
down the federal government we don’t shut down here in in VHA in the
healthcare system we have an advanced appropriation we know what we’re going
to get in one year out and that decision has already been made for 19 and so
we’re in good shape but it comes from Congress Congress is the president makes
recommendations but Congress determines what our advanced appropriation and what
our eventual budget will will look like now clearly we give input to that and we
submit that to the secretary and the secretary works his way through and then
in discussion with the White House and OMB comes to conclusions but you should
know that we are well funded and and are very very pleased with the latest budget
agreement that has come that funds many things that were priorities for us in
this in this budget the next question comes from Darren thank you so much for
having the courage to do this on an online forum
I pray you allow veterans to be heard and not and increase access to you on a
regular basis are you aware of the various VA we’re at websites the bottom
line we’re getting a lot of questions on whether or not we’re going to continue
this type of forum in a public forum by individual administrations I know that
we’re going to be planning and doing this frequently throughout the year as
the veterans experience office but will there be other approaches to addressing
the audience in public forums such as this I can speak for VBA we’re going to
start a quarterly call we call the transparency call for stakeholders where
we talk about what we’ve done throughout the quarter in a similar way probably
won’t have as an exciting Q&A function not so certain will do that but we want
to make sure people understand what we’re doing both good and bad so look I
I learn a lot every time I with the other under secretaries and leadership
I like the forum I like the fact that it’s we can reach out very quickly and
and hear from the veteran and so VHA will continue to the this and will look
for additional forums to to create this type of interaction with so well in NC a
we look for any opportunity that we can to be able to engage with our veterans
and their families that we serve we have a number of public facing products that
we that we put out both on our website Facebook and those kinds of things and
then we invite feedback as we publish things and ask people to please
participate in those but I’ll look for any opportunity we possibly can to be
able to do exactly this kind of thing so that we can have that real-time two-way
interaction I think it’s so important and as I noted earlier in my opening
remarks I visited in 9 months already 50 cemeteries I’ll be out there and I hope
that I can see as many people who are across the nation that we’re serving
personally can’t get them all but we’re out there doing this each and every day
and I know that dr. Lawrence’s team has already approached the ve o who is
responsible for this this forum right now however if there’s
any way that we could support from the EEO to your agencies that’s what we’re
here for and then we’ll support you in any way
that we can absolutely I’ve been asked by Denise can we get a transcript
transcript to all the questions and comments submitted to include
transcripts why we’ll tell you is we will post the YouTube version of this on
the website under the V EO and that’ll come out to all the email
recipients I live 30 this is coming from Douglas I lived 33 miles away from a VA
facility can I go to the outside doctor if I need an operation or a service so
Douglas under the current choice program it is a 40 mile limit and we are having
a discussion with the secretary about exactly what the limits should be and
since the secretary hasn’t made a final decision
I’m gonna leave it at that but stay tuned you will hear very quickly
certainly within the next few weeks about changing the way we approach
access I think it’s one of the primary questions that we get now from Capitol
Hill as we get ready to to implement the mission act as what are our access
standards going to be now what we also need to understand is is what problem
you’re facing and and we’re not asking for that in this form so that we
understand how we can best serve you and how we can get you into the care that’s
most appropriate for you and so stay tuned within the next two weeks we’ll be
able to answer that question in a way more acceptable manner now we have
looked at Medicare standards we’ve looked at TRICARE standards on access
one of the things I want you to recognize people will talk a little bit
about TRICARE standards remember that the TRICARE is divided into multiple
different types of TRICARE from TRICARE for life for the older Medicare eligible
veteran to TRICARE prime which is the highly managed part of TRICARE usually
when they’re talking about TRICARE standards which the trikey they’re
talking about tricare prime so look through those become familiar with them
and then take a look at what we’re going to end up with but I would not want to
get it in front of the secretary who hasn’t made a final decision yet the
next question comes from Jeffery can you tell us about the ramp program I’m
hearing a lot about it what is it how does it work and I’ve made several
attempts can you tell me a little bit more about the ramp appeals process sure
again rapid Appeals modernization program it was a way for people to
opt-in before or have another alternative to how their appeal might be
processed so again the old method took multiple years and this was a way for
people to begin to experiment or have a choice to have their appeal move through
a different process there are different ways you could ask for Europe your your
appeal to be processed more attention more review and even if you’re unhappy
or not satisfied that you can go back to the old process
so it’s a selection in a VSO or service officer could help you or somebody at
VBA can help you determine if it’s the right choice for you but you don’t lose
your place in line so if you decide you want to go back to the old way you can
continue to do that as well next question is from Ken Johnson I have
contacted the White House hotline by the way very super respectful waiting on
them can you give that number out again sure will the White House hotline is 8/5
Glen Jim eight five five nine four eight three two three one one once again
that’s eight five five nine four eight two three one one another VHA question
well the choice program be permanent the choice program is is going away to move
into the mission act the ability to get health care outside of the VA will be
permanent and so as we stand up you’ll see a stand up these these contracts at
the end of the year that will help us move from the current choice into a
single method of purchasing care which is much more simplistic much easier to
understand and so although choice as a term is not permanent in the the Choice
Act from 2014 the ability for you to choose and to participate with your VA
provider in how you receive your care where you receive your care will will be
a permanent process we only have time for a couple more questions the next
question is will the VA ever consider giving chiropractic care at their
hospitals or clinics I think we we currently have chiropractic programs and
I go back to the previous pain relief question we use chiropractic in that we
do not have as many chiropractors as we should
have but chiropractic will become part of our delivery system and we are in a
program also that we’re in the early stages of called whole health that uses
chiropractic and massage therapy has a modalities to reduce chronic pain as
well as treat some of our PTSD chronic problems and this looks like it would be
the final question we had almost 2000 questions asked and we’ll try to get
back to as many as you can many of them have similar themes but the
final question is what is the VA doing to plan to hire more veterans I’ll just interject one thing very
quickly in the National Cemetery administration seventy seven percent of
our workforce is veterans today each year that grows by a percent or two
we’re targeting veterans every day to make sure that we hire as many veterans
as possible the reason we do that is because with 77 percent veterans in our
workforce that means that there are veterans serving veterans every day and
in VBA we echo that veteran serving veterans our workforce is 55 present
veterans and when we go out for a job announcement which you can find on our
website you know there’s veteran preference and
we honor that and embrace it so as I think the answer is as much as possible
to the question absolutely and and in VHA it is it is the same just because of
the sheer size of VHA some areas of our force are policemen
it is dramatically higher than in some other areas where I’m looking for a
thoracic surgeon or for a neurosurgeon but we give preference to veterans we
are looking for veterans always and we encourage you if you think you have the
skillsets that we need please come to us we encourage your application well it
looks like it’s come to a time to the end of the Q&A and to quote one of our
visitors to our site thank you for the courage get in front of this public
forum thank you panelist we’re gonna take a quick break and we’ll be back in
a moment with our other panelists don’t go anywhere welcome back it is with great honor that
I present our second panel the discussion will focus on how they are
partnering with the VA to build capacity form partnerships and share what they
are doing with local community to support veterans and their families
during the panel Q&A session we’ll try to get to as many questions as we can
those that we cannot get to we’ll do our best to follow up on and post answers on
the VA website for the first panel we received almost 2000 questions and don’t
forget go to /v is in Victor alpha Victor echo excuse me without
further ado I would like to introduce our distinguished VA panel alfie
Alvarado hromas president of the National Association of the state
directors of Veterans Affairs thank you first of all I would like to thank
secretary Wilkie for the invitation to join this panel I am pleased for the
inclusion as a National Association of state directors of Veterans Affairs has
been a long-term partner to VA and we share many service priorities our
membership is encouraged by the Secretary’s commitment to improve
customer service by focusing on positive veterans experiences the improvement of
the infrastructure and that quality services we stand ready to work our
collective priorities in service to those who served on behalf of NASA I
welcome the opportunity to share with you our state Department of Veterans
Affairs role in the delivery of services and how we interact with our federal
partner the VA the states have the boots on the ground that fill the post of our
veterans community and the agility to provide just-in-time services to our
veterans and their eligible family members as the governor’s appointed
veteran’s advocate we provide our community with opportunities
opportunities to connect to and utilize the many benefits and services available
based on a national best practice model we are on the front lines
nós table was established in 1946 at the close of World War two there is a state
director of Veterans Affairs or like position in every state in the District
of Columbia Guam Mariana Islands American Samoa Virgin Islands and the
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico where I was born and raised with supplement va
services fill gaps and are integral to the VA s mission to care for those who
serve under eligible family members second to va we are the largest provider
of services to veterans in the country our partnership with va is formalized
through a memorandum of agreement that has been signed by every secretary of va
for the last six years say DBAs vary in size and in reporting structure but we
all have common core’s regarding to services and programs the
list on the screen depicts a very small sampling I say a very small sampling of
the many services and critical programs that are provided by the States from
advocacy and claims development to suicide awareness and Prevention women
and minority veterans and financial assistance you can see that this core
benefits our model has many components these services are provided through a
continuum of federal state county and city partnerships all with the goal of
providing just-in-time assistance and support collaborations with fellow
national organizations and relationships with corporate not-for-profit and
faith-based organizations and individual volunteers complete this circle because
like VA the state cannot do it all when this ecosystem is working in harmony the
veterans paid space Titans and therefore decreases the likelihood of veterans
falling through the cracks in addition our states are involved in two major
grant programs with the federal VA in collaboration with the National
Association of state veterans homes we operate 156 state veterans homes
domiciliaries and adult day care programs making this collective the
largest provider of veterans long-term care again in the country the veteran
cemetery grant program enables states and tribes to build cemeteries so that
veterans and their eligible family members have a final resting place we
operate 111 state and tribal cemeteries that supplement the 136 VA national
shrines so I’m going to talk a little bit about our organizational priorities
because they reflect our veterans needs and support the VA Secretary’s emphasis
on offering world-class service for the customer the slide in the screen here we
go list our current priorities such as
suicide awareness and prevention which is something that is very important to
all of us as as we have 22 veterans committing suicide a day in this country
we need to work harder to be able to decrease that number military transition
unemployment and then finally through innovation and implementation of best
practices we provide continuous improvement as far as our association so
that we can provide better services to our veterans and their families now as
the NASPA president this year I am establishing and you focus for our
association in addition to our core priorities I am calling on my colleagues
to focus on the families our families we need to find and implement best
practices that deal with their emotional wellness and their economic empowerment
the issues we’re making unprecedented investments on our veterans in the
federal state local and philanthropic spaces our success depends on many
support systems primarily the immediate family if the family is not emotionally
financially and physically well the very men may know
reach his or her highest level of functioning despite all our efforts the
issues that offer our we’re a very veterans pts TBI justice involvement
homelessness and suicide have a devastating impact on our families and
the community at large VA does not provide mental health care for their
families as part of its care line because of eligibility standards that
are set by Congress therefore this is where the state network can help fill
those gaps to be able to make the difference for the veteran and the
family this focus and collaboration will bring great benefit to our veterans by
strengthening the family unit and contributing to their success in our
communities and finally I would like again to thank secretary woky for the
opportunity to share with you the services and value of our your State
Department’s of Veterans Affairs and remember to call on us for the delivery
of local services to our nation’s heroes thank you at this time we’re gonna hear
from Herman brewer president of the County VA National Association of County
Veterans Service officers thanks David the National Association of County
Veterans Service officers I’m excited to have this opportunity to speak to you
all today thank you to the secretary thank you to the my fellow panelists the
National Association of County Veterans Service officers the history predates
the Department of Veterans Affairs advocacy that began after the Civil War
veterans of the war would come home to their communities and it was their
friends and family that would see that there was a need for help the role of
the County veteran’s service officer is to act as the continued liaison for the
service member who is separated from the military will help them with their
disability benefits survivor benefits financial assistance transportation
education burial benefits veteran treatment courts the list goes on
essentially we are your advocate we’re comprised of over 2,400 members
1,700 are accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs we have members in
30 states around the country and three Native American tribes we are your
neighbors your kids soccer coach you’ll see us at church at the grocery store at
your bank will you’ll see us at Veterans Day and Memorial Day
we’re folks that you can trust right there by partnering with our
not-for-profit organizations other government agencies organizations such
as NASA and the Department of Veterans Affairs we hope to work collectively to
improve the lives of all who serve this great nation we visited communities
across the country and we found County Veterans Service officers engaged
partnering with the VA as well as their local nonprofits day in and day out
working creatively so that no one falls through the cracks our members are the
frontline our members are the ones who are applying for the benefits for
veterans and their families every day assisting to get those benefits that can
be so important to get them back on their feet or help that surviving spouse
stay in the home that they shared with the veteran a strong partnership with
the VA and with our members support we can change lives of veterans across the
country again I want to say thank you to the secretary for this opportunity at this time we’re gonna hear from hurt
continue on please I’m sorry this time we’re gonna hear from Anthony Wickham
Joint Staff jae-won personnel programs National Guard Bureau Dave I’d like to
thank you and the VA for allowing me to talk about my favorite subject our
National Guardsmen and their families there are about three hundred and
forty-one thousand National Guardsmen out there in your communities along with
their families and together they come out to about 1 million people spread
across the United States in your cities your villages farms across the nation
supporting our national defense effort there’s about 25,000 Guardsmen right now
deployed to such places as Afghanistan and Djibouti in addition we have about
now about 7,000 National Guardsmen still helping our fellow citizens down in
North Carolina South Carolina in the southern part of Virginia we support the
governor’s we’re a dispersed force that are focused on the local level I just
want to talk about a little bit about the National Guard’s we’re American
where the put my glasses on sorry America’s communities and our military
we service we have service members and families in almost every zip code
ensuring the well-being of our soldiers airmen and their families and employers
is key to maintaining our part-time and cost-effective force we’ve established
through very hard lessons of the last 15 years of war and about 850,000
deployments internal network of support that goes down to local level the
National Guard supports the health and well-being of our families through a
network of accessible and responsive professionals who provide training and
support and referrals to all the geographically dispersed family members
just not Guardsmen in catchment areas or in areas outside the catchment areas of
active duty forces let me tell you some of these assets our 54 state family
program directors have been a link at the state level that provide support to
our military families especially when disaster strikes they provide a support
and clear messaging to our families during our response to Hurricane
Florence Hawaii’s volcano activity and California and Oregon wildfires just
this year the state family program directors have the pulse of the local
initiatives and the state specific programs they often are used to provide
the current needs in the state and then they push that down to our local level
folks that are called Family Assistance centers there’s about 471 spread out
across the United States in our armories they’re in unique location and they
address more than 100 or 1 million resource and referral inquiries and
outreach last year also on the Air National Guard side we have 91 Air
National Guard Airmen and family Raiden’s program managers reaching close
to about 200 12,000 service members and their families just last year and we
talked earlier I know we had other panel members talk about survivors our
survivor outreach specialists provide to our survivors of the fallen throughout
the nation and beyond catcher beyond the catchment area of active duty
installations support last year we supported about 65% of the army
survivors were being helped by our National Guard assets out there in the
States we’ll continue to place great emphasis
on programs that prevent promote the mental health and resiliency of our
servicemembers and their families where we work at the local level we have
numerous state and local community outreach forms for military and veterans
including Illinois for example Illinois joining forces
Nevada’s green zone initiative and Minnesota is beyond yellow ribbon
program all these initiatives we link in with partnerships whether it be the
county level or with our local VA VHA or VBA assets both the Veterans
Health Administration and the Veterans Benefits Administration personnel have
briefed our deployers and Families on literally hundreds of yellow ribbon
events throughout the country in the past 15 years so we’ve developed a very
good working relationship with the Veterans Administration since 2005 our
transition assistance advisors have stood at the forefront providing support
advocacy in information to more than 3 million veterans and their families out
there in the States I want to highlight that our TAS our TAS have worked with
the VA to measure the outcomes of our our programs and last year just in
fiscal year 17 transition assistance of eyes errs impacted the lives over over
123 servicemembers and veterans with total
va va che compensation GI bill education benefits received by the Army National
Guard members in fiscal year 17 going over 1.9 billion and that’s 1.9 billion
with a B we would the way we link everything together is through our
joining community forces at our National Guard level it pushes down to our
state’s and community links to find and consolidate the best local resources we
regularly participate in local and state consuls and boards and working groups to
strengthen our local military communities because that’s where we get
our support it’s at the local community this includes participating in over 100
community veterans engagement boards around the country and we also play a
large role in the department defense pilot building healthy military
communities in seven states this partnership regularly assists not
only our National Guard members and their families but also other local
veterans for example finding our veteran health support through the local VA
hospital VA community-based outreach clinics or vet centers for example an
upcoming Veterans stand down in Madison County Indiana
he’s being held at our National Guard Armory in Anderson Indiana on October
12th we’re also partnering with the Veterans Health Administration
readjustment counseling service to incorporate Vet Center personnel to
deploy its mobile vet centers to help fill a critical need for remote National
Guard personnel this National Partnership is building on and expanding
local relationships between the National Guard units and the vet centers that we
already have in place this important initiative enhances the continuum of
support for our servicemembers and their families the vet centers provides a full
spectrum of counseling service services to include individual group marriage and
family counseling to our eligible vets which constitutes about 42% of the
National Guard these services are provided through the 300 vet centers
that are out there in our communities and they’re 80 mobile mobile vet centers
what will help that Center vans and the Vet Center call center I just want to do
some quick vignettes together we and the members of the Tulsa Oklahoma mayor’s
veteran Advisory Council who’s chaired by Sandra Oxford at the VA Tulsa Vet
Center manager the Tulsa was man mayor’s Vet Center visor II counsel helped over
100 has over 100 members who said on the console and the purpose of this
committee is to bring military members and veterans ations and community
together to have a direct line to the mayor on issues consenting veterans and
we have that throughout the nation and so and either are part of those groups
or our members or participate in those groups on a quarterly or monthly basis
we’d like to let you know once again that we are in your communities we’ve
developed a network of support through 15 years of of combat and are there to
support the efforts of other agencies that are helping our veterans throughout
the nation thank you very much next I’d like to introduce Steven Austin
senior executive assistant chief of the Army Reserve Office of the commander
Army Reserve thank you Dave secretary Wilkie fellow famil panel
members ladies and gentlemen in our viewing audience good afternoon and my
thanks to secretary Wilkie for inviting us to participate in this VA community
town-hall event what a great way to reach out to veterans and their families
across America and to let them know what we are doing to help them reenter or
readjust to civilian life and what programs and services are out there for
veterans and their families the Army Reserve is located in every state and
five US territories as well as 30 countries across the globe and
supporting soldiers and families is a top Army Reserve priority and this
includes veterans and their families however because our forces are
geographically dispersed rather than centered on installations like the
active army we use a different system to connect soldiers and families to local
organizations and community based services Army Reserve family programs
and the fort family outreach and support center at Fort Bragg North Carolina
provide a direct conduit to command and community resources with comprehensive
and confidential information assistance and referrals for every aspect of
military life but perhaps one of the most difficult parts of a soldier
service many of us have been there whether active army or Army Reserve or
other services comes with leaving the service and figuring out how to
translate military skills and experience into a new civilian job that will
continue to provide for their families needs and financial security which is
why in 2014 the Army Reserve launched its private public partnership
initiative or p3 the mission of p3 is twofold
first it’s a partnership between the private sector and the Army Reserve that
provides businesses with highly skilled and educated employees they need to
succeed in a competitive marketplace in return for real-world civilian
experience that strengthens soldiers core military capabilities and second
it’s a way through an extensive network of partners that includes for-profit
nonprofit and academic institutions to help veterans and family members find
jobs and access the training credentialing and licensing
opportunities they need to succeed in the private sector the p3 team includes
army reserve specialists Army Reserve specialists located Army Reserve
facilities across the United States dedicated to providing assistance with
civilian employment opportunities resume development interview preparation how to
use social media and employment websites access to exclusive career opportunities
and hiring events as well as career advancement support and we also have
transition readiness liaisons who assist veterans and families transitioning from
active duty to civilian life with employment education and resource
opportunities they conduct warm handoffs to army readiness specialists nationwide
to enable continued p3 support in each soldier’s destination wherever they’re
going in the United States upon transition relocation and leverage p3
partnerships capabilities and resources to disseminate opportunities through
social media outlets hiring events briefings and individual case management
clearly employers are a vital part of our effort to build and sustain a strong
Army Reserve and national defense in addition to its focus on employment and
professional development p3 also collaborates with organizations that
focus on physical mental emotional spiritual financial and family wellness
groups like give an hour which is dedicated to meeting the mental health
needs of soldiers veterans and Families another the Mission Continues that
empowers veterans adjusting to the home find new missions another team red white
and blue that organizes physical fitness activities for veterans and family
members heroes care that provides a nationwide support network available
before during and after deployment to post 9/11 soldiers veterans and Families second excuse me got it got to turn the
page okay the veterans career transition
program through the Syracuse Institute for veterans and military families that
offers a veteran’s career transition program and free online certification
prep and a professional training course for post 9/11 veterans and spouses the
Army Reserve also partners with the US Chamber of Commerce foundations Hiring
Our Heroes program to find jobs for soldiers transitioning to civilian life
and groups like LPL Financial a leader in the financial advice industry and a
trusted source of independent advice in local communities to give you just one
quick example of how the Army Reserve p3 program helps veterans a p3 army
readiness specialist I mentioned there throughout the country who covers
Minnesota recently helped a local Army Reserve veteran who was in dire need of
finding employment after a potential career opportunity was unexpectedly
withdrawn the specialist assisted the vet with
resume development referred him to local career outreach events and connected him
with p3 partner organizations within 30 days the veteran received two job offers
with salaries nearly twice the amount of the initial opportunity that fell
through after carefully reviewing both offers he accept accepted a position as
a service manager with that I think my time is up if you’d like to learn more
about the Army Reserves p3 program please visit our webpage at in and I’ve had to kind
of hobble this one together a lot of the questions has similar themes how are
state county and federal VA working together to meet the needs of veterans
so we don’t work in stovepipes what is the relationship between federal state
and county VA s so at the county level you know as I said in my introduction
that we work to help veterans who are filing disability benefits but then
because we are engrained in the community we take responsibility to help
hand that veteran off to other agencies so what we’ve seen as we’ve traveled
around to see what that what is working as best practices in certain communities
we see areas that are coming together where they’re actually partnering with
VA and partnering with State Department of Veterans Affairs to bring together
whether it is through a three-day weekend like what we saw happen in
Cleveland Ohio just a few weeks ago where they brought
in members from the regional office as well as members from the Healthcare
Administration as well as many other not-for-profit agencies like the Red
Cross where they were able to work together they were able to take action
on roughly 230 disability claims they saw nine hundred and fifty veterans in a
three-day period in that experience so that’s just one small example of how
county and state are working together but there’s many many other examples
it’s going to vary from state to state you know certain state legislatures work
differently than others so the way that they’re going to partner down to the
county level may be different I know that in the state of Ohio we have
financial assistance programs I know that in in the state of Indiana they
have various educational benefits so it’s going to vary from state to state
and I think that Alfea may be able to add something to this as well
sure and from the state perspective is a continuum of services the state may be
able to do some some services the county is were a lot of the resources we cite
when it comes to our state’s and therefore they have a lot of the
financial flexibility and capacity to be able to augment services and the
communication between the state the county and the service officers is
critical because then we’re able to deploy smartly our resources and not
duplicate efforts so it’s an incredibly symbiotic relationship in which the
veteran actually wins next question I have is going to go to the other side of
the house to the National Guard and Army Reserve and this question went to the
Army Reserve but I think it’s applicable to the National Guard as well is the
Army Reserve and National Guard do anything to help their soldiers
post-transition oh absolutely I mean that that was
that’s what I’m trying to convey that the p3 program is one of the focuses is
Army Reserve Soldiers and actually will help anybody we’ve helped National Guard
Navy doesn’t matter what the service is but it’s also after they transitioned
that the p3 program continues to help we’re that’s part of their mattress not
just active soldiers but but soldiers for life in a National Guard very
similar to the the way the Army Reserve works we have assets that are out there
especially our Family Assistance centers and our state family program directors
and the transition Assistance advisors that help those service members
transition from active duty status to the normal getting back into their jobs
getting back into the communities and becoming productive members of those
communities from the get-go this one I think is for me you keep on saying Seva
‘b or cv can you tell us again what does that stand for and for those have been
asking we’ve had several questions it is community veteran engagement board CVE
be next question I think this also applies to the National Guard and Army
Reserve together based on the geographical distances between units
what are you doing to support our families we are for the past 15 years
what we’ve relied to on for our families is the local communities and whether it
be through the local Health and Human Services through nonprofits and through
other organizations that are in the counties we we have had to just through
hard lessons learned over the years establish those links with those local
assets to solve the problems that come up just in everyday life and being the
chat the challenges of being a military family so I would totally agree with
Tony if the family is not happy the soldier is not happy so we also in
addition to taking care of the soldier we need to take care of the family and
in doing that it’s just like Tony said it’s partnering with those via so
voluntary organizations the county state governments that are partners in the
private industry it I mean this is a team sport so it’s
partnering with all of those individuals to help soldiers our army emergency
relief you know for instance with Hurricane Florence and whenever we have
emergencies like that there are multiple organizations out there and we’re not
just focused on we will not turn around way a spouse that’s looking for
employment they come to the p3 program we will help them out if I can so in my
community we have a National Guard training center there was an incident on
a training weekend where a GSA vehicle carrying Guard members had an accident
the it was training weekend so these members were not from the area their
family members then had to come to the area the Guard commander there at the
post notified our offices we coordinated with
local not-for-profits to get them hotel rooms that they could stay we also
partnered with them to get them you know necessities for their travels and so
forth so it’s it like these gentlemen said it’s a partnership all around and
it’s about relationships knowing beforehand before that that incident
happens on who to call and hewed contact that’s what makes it successful is the
relationships we build over time this is the first time I’ve heard about County
and State Service officers do you work for the federal government if not how do
I find out what counties the state benefits are available is there a list
by state or VSOs so actually if you go to our website and
a CBS OH dot o-r-g you’d be able to find if there is a County veteran’s service
officer that’s near you if not you’d also be linked to the State Department
of Veterans Affairs but the county veteran’s service officer is right there
at home like I said in my intro we are the ones at Veterans Day with you or
they’re at Memorial Day and we are your neighbors so we are there as accredited
representatives like affiliate recognized by the Department of Veterans
Affairs to fully help you through the process of
a disability claim through burial benefits through other types of benefits
and you’d want to reach out to your local community to find out what types
of benefits could be available to you because they will vary from state to
state and you may find a robust set of benefits in your area in which case
you’d be in great shape if not you’d probably want to reach out to your
legislators to find out why that’s the case and let me let me add to that
please because the volume of work that needs to be done and the benefits that
are yet to be tapped especially by our elder veterans who have no idea that
they’re eligible for benefits is such that it takes a larger village to be
able to provide the services so in addition to the County Veterans Service
officer’s service organizations like the American Legion and VFW mo pH and others
do have accredited service officers to make sure that this ecosystem of
benefits you know and services can be accessed you know through a lot of
different working partners because the volume of work is large and if more
veterans truly access their benefits and apply for what they earn they will be
able this system is going to be able to work for them next questions come in
probably right back at you Herman Alfie can State VSOs and I’m gonna add County
in there as well can state and county VSOs help with my appeals process
absolutely and if there are members of ours we we have a system in place to
assist in the appeals process the system is in place to help from the very
beginning all the way until the end so yeah absolutely the members are
accredited through cross accreditation with many recognizable national
veteran’s service organizations such as the disabled american veterans but in in
many areas we could be accredited by the state departments such as with the state
of washington but there’s a number of different ways that we would be able to
help in that process again you’d want to check out the website to be able to find
that count veteran’s service officer nearest you our state and county offices also
working on customer service well absolutely and as a matter of fact
yesterday in Washington State there was a major training for as many of our
service officers from all organizations including the State Department of
Veterans Affairs were one of the areas that is has been receiving little
attention it’s being able to serve LGBTQ veterans it’s a segment of our
population that deserves services that are sensitive to you know to them to
their needs and therefore the customer service has been lacking in that
particular area and therefore that’s one of the areas that we have been focusing
to make sure that all veterans are served in a way that is going to be
consistent with the sensitivity that is required and therefore improve the
customer service to them to add what Alfie is saying the the the difficulty
in it is a large task to maintain that consistency across the country when
we’re reaching out into some of the most remote areas including you know some
Navy a Native American tribes that where we also have representatives at but our
organization provides training annually to the members that met that training
helps to provide that consistency and and make sure that the veterans are
getting the proper service that they deserve you know so if you’re if you’re
checking on your benefits and you’re reaching out to your local counties if
they’re members of ours and there is an issue you you can contact us through our
website switch them back across the table Thanks god bless you for the
National Guard’s help in Puerto Rico and I’ve gotten several from the Carolinas
as well my regard question however regards how does the VA and National
Guard work as partners again Thanks we’ve worked as I mentioned a little bit
earlier we’ve been working with VA in detail since about 2004 as part of our
Yellow Ribbon reintegration program from that we’ve built a pretty good base
working with the VA our transition assistance advisors have been linking in
with our both our Veterans Health Administration our Veterans Benefits
Administration personnel locally at the local level to coordinate benefits and
to make sure that any Guardsman or any military member or veteran that’s out
there is able to get the benefits that they’ve earned okay so so actually an
all pile-on the same is true with the Army Reserve with the Yellow Ribbon
Program with the other programs that the VA has to support the transition so if a
soldier that’s transitioning out goes to a transition point there is service
people there there’s private people are our veterans associations and the VA is
there so it’s again I can’t emphasize how much it’s a team sport here none of
us do it by ourselves none of us do it by ourselves it really does take as you
say a larger community a larger village and VA can’t do it alone I got an
interesting question can you volunteer to work at a County Service office and
I’ll put that to the state as well okay and if so how
yeah so it’s going to depend upon the the county and typically I know that
most counties work close closely with the the VA voluntary services in their
area so there may not be spots in specific counties some counties actually
operate on a part-time basis so you’d want to check with your local county to
find out if there is a need some counties utilize volunteers to to
transport veterans from their area to save vetal centers and so forth
but yeah there are there are plenty of opportunities and typically someone in
the county office will know where those volunteers are needed
one of the things that we find in some rural communities is that there is a
need for for burial services so if you are a veteran that that is part of a
Veterans organization you can check to see if there’s an honor guard that that
goes out to honor service members for their burials and we need peer mentors
we need a lot of our veterans who had the opportunity of being able to
dedicate a little bit of time to be able to make sure that they can bring home
many of their veterans who are yet to come home if you’re ready to volunteer
that means that you’ve reached a place in your life well you’re ready to give
and there are others who need to be able to get that edging to be able to to
bring them back and we will take volunteers anything anytime because
there’s so much work that needs to be done when it comes to the areas of
outreach making people a little bit dangerous to be able to know enough to
refer somebody to a professional service officer so yes the opportunities abound the next question I have can I go to a
County VSO to help get benefits or do I have to go to the VBA now that’s
actually what we’re there for we are there to help in the application process
whether that is the healthcare benefits the education benefits the disability
benefits there you know and that’s that that’s the thing that it’s going to take
a County veteran’s service officer to introduce you to all of those different
benefits because the one thing that you will find is that there are many
benefits that veterans are eligible for and some do not come from the Department
of Veterans Affairs so if you’re only looking at the VA you may not be finding
all of the benefits that are available to you you know state states have their
own benefits local governments have their own benefits so reach out to that
County veteran’s service officer from the very beginning and I set it in
my intro and and really you know as a formal net former National Guardsman the
way that I view our role is that unit administrator we are the person that we
are able to turn to you know the one that I ran to on a drill weekend to
change dependency information we are that person now you know so absolutely
you’d want to reach out to find out the number of different benefits that are
– outstanding with all the talk of customer experience and customer service
is USA r and ng National Guard working to improve veterans how are you working
to improve veterans experience and customer service for veterans their
families in their own communities so so actually we track this the what we would
call success you know it for instance getting a job transitioning and and it’s
not I’m not tracking specifically veterans on tracking all the entire
cohort you know our our current Army Reserve Soldiers anybody else National
Guard soldiers that are out there so we we have so many people out doing our p3
program and there has to be a return on that investment so that’s what we’re
looking at so are those people doing what they need to do if they are not and
it’s individually based then you know do I need to find somebody else do they
need more help do they need more assistance do they need more training so
I can tell you that we are tracking that very carefully and try and trying to
improve the numbers you know you know what’s the percentage of soldiers that
we that are getting jobs so I’ll kind of leave it at that Tony and let you pile
on all right I will pile on correct and also we’re we’re tracking with our
Family Assistance centers with our transition assistance advisors helping
vets that come in and it’s it’s basically no wrong door wherever they
come into our system whether it’s through the Family Assistance centers
through our just our National Guard Armory readiness NCOs or through our
transition Assistance advisors we’re pointing to the right place to track to
get them into the system to get them the resources they need and then we have
tracking mechanisms to track them along putting together case
Anish meant to help them get their assets that they need the next one’s
more of a statement than a question and I appreciate it and from the email looks
like the person’s a nurse excellent for all veterans to know this information
thank you very much for the effort like I said should the VA website be into all
VA sectors including the county and the state sites please acknowledge all the
veterans that need to be involved she ends with saying or he ends with
saying we’re all in this together as we were in service and in war thank you
again very much for having that courage to be out here
the next question can I get a VA ID card if I was the National Guard and I’ll add
that to the Army Reserve as well and if you can’t answer that when I do know the
answer so so it’s kind of a little bit of a trick question so the question was
a VA ID card affirmative okay so the VA a ID card is actually a health care card
so it’s not actually a VA ID card but what you will find and now the VA does
have the new ID card that that was released last year I know that there’s
that some individuals have been able to get that you’ll also find that some
states have issued ID cards as well as counties have issued veteran’s ID cards
if you are a guardsman or reservist in some counties you’ll be able to obtain
one just by producing a copy of a 2-14 showing that you served honorably
through your training period so if there are a number of different outlets to be
able to obtain that ID card if in fact you’re not eligible for a VA ID card yes
and I just want to expand upon that a little bit getting a little bit outside
the boundaries of the question but if you’re an active duty service member in
a remote location you can go and your need a ID card for a new family member a
new baby or maybe your spouse’s ID card is about to expire you don’t have to go
all the way to an active duty post you can go to either National Guard Armory
or a US Army Reserve Armory we have we’re in the deers that we have deer
system stations that can get you those ID cards and I’d like to add if I can
that if you are the National Guard the VA does have a generic it does not give
you health benefits of generic ID card and that ID card can be given with you
turn in a dd-214 and it’s found on vets gov and if you’re in the National Guard
if you have an NG B form 22 that is sufficient information and also if your
Army Reserve a certificate of discharge you submit those and shortly thereafter
you should be able to get a a VA ID card next question we’ve heard a lot about
how the National Guard reaches out to communities and this also would go for
the Army Reserves how can I find out more to help my local soldiers is the
National Guard and/or Army Reserve part of the community engagement board and
how do I find out more yes they are and where you can find out more the people
who really go to the the links are either if you’re in the Air National
Guard you go to your airmen and Family Program
Raina’s program manager right there at the wing or if you’re in the Army Army
National Guard you go to your family Assistance Center Family Assistance
Center and there there’s about 400 of those mostly at the battalion level
locations but they’re spread out all over the place and that’s where you go
for your referrals to assistance yeah and for the Army Reserve similar I
mentioned this early on on the family side fort family so and you know if you
type it in the internet and it’ll come up for family and it same thing that
Tony’s talking about that will send you to the right you can go where you need
to go in order to pursue that so this is a generic question I’ve gotten a lot
about town halls or outreach programs so I’m gonna add to State County National
Guard or Army Reserve have town halls and how do I find out about your town
halls or other similar forums okay so the answer is yes we conduct our halls
across the nation and in for example we just did one in
Washington State where is called commander Scholl and that brings a lot
of the service organizations and it’s open to the public to be able to discuss
issues get information and be able to get feedback from the community to
ensure that again we keep the finger on the pulse of what the needs of the
veterans are and can get agile regarding being able to answer those needs so
actually they’re there the Department of Veterans Affairs has been taking town
halls on the road whether they come from regional offices or from local medical
centers I know that in my community some of the town halls have taken place in
inside veterans organizations inside their halls they’ve also taken place
inside some of the community-based outpatient clinics so they’re our town
halls that you may find in your area if you do have a local VA clinic or you
have a local County veteran’s office you’d want to check with them typically
that County veteran’s office will be attending local veterans organization
meetings monthly so you’d want to check with them but yeah town halls are a
fairly regular event within our community within the states and within
the counties as well because the veterans governor’s Advisory Committee
will have my head when I get home if I don’t say something because they conduct
with the help of our agency six town halls across the state focus on rural
communities to make sure that we also get information on what’s going on and
the needs of rural communities which is a whole different ballgame from when it
comes to you know the communities as a whole so I just wanted to make sure that
I interjected that otherwise I will not be able to go back home anything from
the any town halls or other community forums that the reserve for the National
Guard advance so from a reserve perspective I would say it’s primarily
kind of individual unit based locally that’s not something that we control at
the at the national level or that I’m really tracking I mean this is this is
leadership this is powering commanders but every time one
of our partners has some sort of townhall then typically we will
participate there there are other ones eSGR employer support to the garden
reserve the Chamber of Commerce they’re hiring fairs we will have people there
participating have a booth if need be but definitely have people there to
facilitate whatever we can and the guard in the guard once again we’ve got 54
little laboratories out there that are working with their communities in the
states and territories for for these outreach events and if you want to know
what’s local I highly recommend you contact a Family Assistance Center
specialists we’re on our joint service support website or you can just google
the National Guard your local National Guard and contact them from there thank
you very much we only have a few moments left I have one comment thank you very
much for getting the work work out I’m not going to name the organization but I
work for a private nonprofit that helps veterans thank you so much again next
question was when are we going to do this again and I can’t tell you that
right now but we will publish that as early as we can it’s our intent to do
with several times this year and then I’m gonna take a quick moment to say
final comments across the room we only have a few moments but any summation
comments you’d like to make so I just like to say that I look forward to
continuing the partnership that our organization has with the VA and with
the National Association of state directors and look forward to future
partnerships with with NGB and US Army Reserve to be able to reach into the
communities those as Alfie brought up those rural communities where there
there aren’t as many resources available but to be able to reach out there and
help those individuals that are in need we know that the need is there and were
there to serve that and I would like to say it takes a village to serve a vet
and his or her family and you need to know who your state director of veterans
are fairs are and what your State Department
of Veterans Affairs does because it is a force multiplier to the work that the VA
does so get to know us because we want to be able to serve you so I would just
pile on that this is a partnership none of us can do it by ourselves and we all
have different capabilities and particularly on the actinide we are
focused on soldiers but that extends for a soldier for life once you’re a soldier
you come in we’ll take care of you and I also agree with Tony this is
relationships so you know we developed the relationships at the top and they
bubble down to the lowest level we’re out in your communities if you need help
go see us see our family assistance centers or go see the community the
county your county reps and once again it’s all about its is constantly about
relationship building and strengthening those ties and you constantly got to re
reattach those or revisit those to better serve our veterans thank you thank you so much everyone for being
part of the first of several virtual community town halls that we hope to
have this fiscal year we want to partner with you and we will need local
communities service providers advocate VSO state and county federal non-federal
agencies to work with us to bridge gaps and services solve challenges in solving
challenges at the local level thank you for your service your sacrifice and what
you do every day for veterans we appreciate the families caregivers and
survivors who are able to join us we know we cannot do it without you
thank you

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