VA secretary announces immediate transformations in wake of scathing IG report

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VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin announced in March he would implement immediate reforms throughout VA facilities, the Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) and VA’s central office. These changes come as on the heels of an Inspector General report detailing unsanitary conditions, equipment shortages, chronic understaffing and other deficiencies at the Washington, D.C. VA Medical Center.

According to Shulkin, these issues indicate “a failure of the VA system at every level – a failure at the facility level, a failure at the network level and a failure at the central office.”

“This report has identified unacceptable findings of grave concern to all of us in leadership,” Shulkin said.

First, VA will complete a plan to reorganize the department’s central office in Washington D.C. by May 1. Second, the department will form a special team to work with its national leadership council to develop a nationwide reorganization plan for its 23 Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs). That plan is due to the secretary by July 1.

“The VISN model was put in place close to 20 years ago, a very innovative model that has served VA well,” Shulkin said. “But like any business, the times change, the needs change and it’s time for us to look at how we operate our networks differently to get the type of accountability that’s needed to make sure we don’t see the failures that we saw here.”

Shulkin also appointed a new executive in charge, Bryan Gamble, to oversee three of the most problematic VISNs, which includes the medical center in D.C.

“We applaud the secretary’s proactive decision to implement these department-wide reforms,” said DAV Washington Headquarters Executive Director Garry Augustine in a statement. “We encourage Secretary Shulkin to continue to engage with veteran service organizations to identify opportunities in which we can work together towards reorganization of the department in a manner which best serves and safeguards our nation’s veterans.”