On January 21, VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald highlighted his goals for 2016, which focused on improving the patient and employee experience, before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
A majority of the priorities McDonald noted during his testimony were veteran touchpoints, including improved experience, increased access to health care, and a unified veteran's experience. Other priorities focused on enabling the VA to offer better services to veterans, such as transforming the agency’s dated infrastructure.
"Make no mistake, all 12 [goals] are designed to improve the delivery of timely care to and benefits to our veterans," McDonald noted during his testimony.
Committee members agreed that change was necessary. Republican Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia noted that payment problems may cause private health care providers to withdraw from the Veterans Choice Program. "We have got to get a situation in the Veterans Administration where a physician can reasonably anticipate a prompt payment for services under the choice program—or Choice won't work," Isakson added during his opening remarks.
Ultimately, McDonald's plans are to transform the MyVA program to improve the veteran experience, employee experience, as well as the internal support services. "We must enable by bringing our infrastructure into the 21st century. It's unacceptable, as it impedes our efforts to serve our veterans."
However, mutual concern was identified by committee members regarding how progress on these 12 goals will be tracked. "One thing we ought to talk about is, as you go forward, how members will have the ability to track progress on these initiatives," said Republican Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina during open questioning. "They aren't just pretty on a PowerPoint; they have to map to initiatives."
Tillis added that this communication was necessary for overall success.
"Another thing going forward that's important is to make sure that when we make requests, in addition to what you have planned in this transformation, you need to make sure that you're very direct… and these things that we should be able to watch on your project dashboard," Tillis said.
Along with the discussion of upgraded technology infrastructure and enhanced employee experience, other topics included reducing the disability claims backlog, veterans' homelessness, and VA staff recruiting.