Department of Veterans Affairs stories will be popping up everywhere this week as the beleaguered agency rolls out a nationwide outreach effort to highlight reform efforts in the wake of a crisis in veterans’ health care.
Roughly one year after former Procter & Gamble CEO Bob McDonald took over as VA secretary in the midst of a scandal, the VA has instructed directors of its medical centers, regional offices and cemeteries to reach out to local media to tell their stories.
VA spokesman James Hutton said that facilities would be highlighting different issues, and that there is no specific topic for the outreach.
“We told them to talk about their facility and we said, ‘Say some of your accomplishments, some of your challenges,’” he said. “There was no script.”
At the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center, in Dublin, Ga., officials told local media they are hiring more health care professionals to get patients in sooner, but that average wait times are still well above their target of 30 days.
“We still have long wait periods to get in,” Director Maryalice Morro told the Macon Telegraph. “While I see it getting better in the months ahead, we still struggle.”
That’s a more conciliatory tone than VA central officials have sometimes struck in their frequent testimony to Congressional committees, perhaps signaling a different tack from the department.
The defensiveness that VA officials have often shown over the systemic problems uncovered at the VA over the past year or so has enraged lawmakers, who have called for fundamental change at the federal government’s second largest department.