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B 54 MILITARY OFFICER OCTOBER 2016


BOB MCDONALD was chair, president, and CEO of Procter & Gamble Co. before he became secretary of the VA in 2014, but not even a lifetime of profit and loss experience prepared him for the cultural transformation the department would require.


Square one McDonald — and a broad swath of the veteran community — is count- ing on MyVA to do that. The com- prehensive initiative is designed to transform the way the agency does business. “We’re trying to put the veteran at the center of everything we do,” McDonald says. MyVA is intended to make the


agency a principles-based organiza- tion instead of one governed by the kind of rules that, in May 2015, forced a veteran with a broken foot to call 911 for assistance because a VA em- ployee refused to help him in from his car — which was pulled up just outside the emergency room door. “MyVA encompasses health care,


benefi ts, basically everything the VA does,” says Lt. Col. (select) Aniela Szymanski, USMCR, MOAA deputy director for Government Relations. “It is a huge undertaking, but something had to be done.” More than 9 million veterans rely on the VA for benefi ts and services ranging from education and home loans to rehabilitation and health care. With more than 320,000 full-time employees staffi ng 167 medi- cal centers, 863 outpatient clinics, 300 Vet Centers, 56 regional offi ces, nine regional loan centers, and 131 national


cemeteries, if the VA were a private company, it would rank among the na- tion’s 10 largest corporations. Instilling meaningful change on


such a grand scale might seem daunting, but the private-sector per- spective of the agency’s new leader- ship, combined with input from a broad spectrum of stakeholders and community partners, is producing results. “I don’t know if there’s a time when there has been greater change [in the agency],” VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson says. With MyVA, the organization


hopes to set a course of long-term excellence and reform and rebuild trust with veterans, their families, and the American people. Improving the experience and the performance of employees is a critical element of the far-reaching initiative. So is the enhancement of strategic partner- ships. “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again,” McDonald says. “We cannot do this by ourselves.” At the top of the list, however, is


the need to improve the veteran ex- perience. “We’ve talked to thousands and thousands of veterans to put these transformation plans together,” says McDonald, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point,


N.Y., and an Army veteran who served with the 82nd Airborne Division. The feedback he received is re-


fl ected in a handful of objectives designed “to achieve meaningful near- term improvements and quick wins for veterans” while also moving the organization closer to long-term suc- cess. Among them are increased access to health care, improved community care, modernization of VA contact centers, simplifi cation of the appeals process, and a continuing reduction of homelessness among the nation’s veteran population. At a meeting of the MyVA Advisory Committee in July, held at the VA Bos- ton Healthcare System, members of the VA’s senior leadership team reported on the progress that was being made. The committee, which is chaired by retired Army Maj. Gen. Joe Robles Jr., the former president and CEO of USAA, comprises an impressive group of veterans, including, among others, the vice chancellor of Syracuse Univer- sity, the head of Amazon Web Services Worldwide Public Sector, a former U.S. surgeon general, and the CEO of a $6.2 billion health care system that includes the Cleveland Clinic. In a joint statement, members


of the committee noted that while much work remained, the change they had witnessed over the past 15 months — at all levels of the depart- ment — was unprecedented. Some don’t think the changes


are enough, though. Legislation proposed by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) would privatize the VA. In June, MOAA joined with 25 other veterans service organiza- tions, including AMVETS and Viet- nam Veterans of America, to send a joint letter to McMorris Rodgers stating their opposition to the bill. “The draft legislation is predicated


ALL PHOTOS: SHUTTERSTOCK


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