On Feb. 8, 2021, Denis McDonough was confirmed by the Senate to be the United States’ 11th Secretary of Veterans Affairs. He heads into the job with a rich background filled with experience navigating the government’s complex bureaucracy. Being a veteran of Capitol Hill, he aims to leverage his knowledge to better serve our nation’s military Veterans.
In this episode of Borne the Battle, McDonough touches on topics important to many Veterans:
- His vision for Community Care.
- His priorities when improving the VA health care system.
- Ensuring every Veteran gets a COVID vaccine in a timely fashion.
- Making sure rural Veterans can consistently and reliably access VA health care services.
- Maximizing VA mental health services to best benefit Veterans in need.
- Transitioning VA records from paper to electronic.
While being VA Secretary is a new position for McDonough, he has taken steps to bridge the gaps in his knowledge by renewing a tradition that he followed as White House chief of staff. He reached out to as many former VA Secretaries he could to ask them for advice. In the interview, McDonough said the conversations have served him well so far and he intends to maintain these relationships moving forward.
And while McDonough is not a Veteran, he contacted multiple Veterans during his first weeks as secretary to solicit their advice and general thoughts on the state of VA. In doing so, McDonough said he has learned valuable information on what issues are important to Veterans and has used those discussions to shape his priorities.
Many of the comments McDonough made in this episode reflect the statements he made during his Senate confirmation hearing:
Being a lifelong civil servant, McDonough enters his new position with a vast wealth of knowledge about navigating the federal government to achieve goals. Whether he successfully leverages his extensive experience from Capitol Hill to effectively serve America’s Veterans – he says that will ultimately be decided by you.
In addition to listening to full episodes on your favorite podcatcher, you can also catch Borne the Battle interviews on YouTube:
Borne the Battle Veteran of the Week:
- Army Veteran Justice Eileen Moore.
Mentioned in this Episode:
- VA allocates $1B to aid State Veterans Homes amid COVID-19 pandemic.
- GI Bill platform soon to be a click away, offering students easier access.
- Annual VA Center for Women Veterans campaign highlights trailblazers.
- E.A.C.H. Coaching Tool Web App.
- Strategic review of Electronic Health Record Modernization program.
- VA, American Red Cross team up to provide virtual social engagement for Veterans during COVID-19 pandemic.
- Despite only being a month-and-a-half in office, McDonough has generated a lot of buzz here on Vantage Point. Check out the archives to see what he has been doing.
- In highlighting the importance of mental health resource access, McDonough said that “we are not a collection of symptoms, we are people with stories and with hard earned stories.” Check out VA’s My Life, My Story series to hear the stories that many Veterans have to share.
Calvin Wong is an intern with VA’s Digital Media Engagement team. He studies History as an undergraduate at the University of California, Davis.