VA Event at Georgetown Features Veterans Affairs Leaders

JANUARY 10, 2017 – A two-day meeting of the MyVA advisory committee being held on Georgetown’s campus featured an opening address by Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert A. McDonald and Deputy Secretary Sloan D. Gibson.

The two speakers, themselves veterans, outlined several accomplishments of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs since they began in their leadership roles in 2014, as well as identified directions for the future.

“We want great outcomes for veterans,” said McDonald today from the stage in Lohrfink Auditorium. “Nothing else matters – not ideology, not anything else. Putting veterans first is what we’re about.”

Creating an Environment

Patricia Cloonan, PhD, RN, dean of the School of Nursing & Health Studies, welcomed the audience to Georgetown. The school, through its new Strategic Innovations Group (SIG) housed in the Department of Health Systems Administration, is co-hosting the meeting along with the VA.

She expressed her gratitude to the federal department for collaborating “. . . with Georgetown to create an environment in which we can engage in this conversation about MyVA.”

She also thanked colleagues Ryung Suh, MD, MPP, MBA, MPH, a veteran and chair of the Department of Health Systems Administration, and Robin Portman, MS, director of the SIG, for helping bring this opportunity to Georgetown.

Improving Service

MyVA, as the department notes on its Web site, began close to two years ago to bring together experts from various fields “. . . to explore and implement strategies for the best way forward for the agency.”

Cloonan said Georgetown’s campus – with about 700 students who are active duty or veteran status, a Veterans Office, a Veterans Initiative, and a Student Veterans Association – aligns well with this work.

Regarding NHS, Cloonan said she sees opportunities to contribute to veterans health through the school’s multidisciplinary academic programs, focus on the social determinants of health, and large advanced practice online nursing program that educates master’s-level students across the country.

‘Putting Veterans First’

In their slide presentation, titled “The State of VA: Putting Veterans First,” McDonald and Gibson described the organizational mission, values, and vision that provide a framework for all activity.

The mission is “to care for those ‘who shall have borne the battle,’ and for their families and their survivors.” The values include integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect, and excellence. The vision is “a Veterans Affairs that’s the No. 1 customer-service agency in the Federal government.”

McDonald added that the VA seeks to be “. . . a values-based organization, not a rules-based organization.”

Accomplishments, Future Direction

The two speakers walked the audience through many achievements of the 360,000-plus-person organization, which includes the biggest health care system in the U.S.

They first detailed the “transformation strategies” driving the work of MyVA, including bettering the experiences of veterans and employees, “improving internal support services,” “establishing a culture of continuous performance improvement,” and “enhancing strategic partnerships.”

A few of the accomplishments they noted include rising levels of satisfaction and trust, a considerable drop in homelessness and unemployment among veterans, the launch of a toll-free information number “MyVA311,” the creation of more than 100 community boards to engage veterans, and training for hundreds of thousands of individuals – both employees and leaders.

Future focus for 2017 includes areas like modernizing the appeals process, improving telehealth services, bettering “sharing of patient information,” and “consolidation of care and choice improvements.”

Reflecting on the significant strides that have been made and the future work that needs to be done, Gibson noted near the beginning of the event: “You don’t see a ‘mission accomplished’ banner hanging up here” in the auditorium.

Editor’s Note: A recording of the remarks is available by clicking here.

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