Shulkin Unveils Sweeping Reforms for VA Programs, Operations

Military Times - Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin outlined an ambitious reform of nearly every aspect of his often-criticized department during a “State of the VA” address at the White House on Wednesday, calling it a sign of the president’s commitment to helping veterans.

“Many of these challenges have been decades in building and they've spanned multiple administrations,” Shulkin told reporters at the event. “This is the time for us to really address these chronic problems that in many ways have harmed veterans and their families.”

The plan includes promises to speed medical care access to all veterans, reduce disability claims backlogs, expand community care options for patients, reduce VA’s footprint nationwide, improve the department's information technology systems and reduce both the number of bureaucrats in VA’s headquarters and “burdensome regulations” within the department.

Nearly all of the ideas have already been started by VA and touted by agency leaders in the last few months.

But together, the plan represents the most sweeping reform goals for the department since President Barack Obama in 2009 announced plans to end veterans homelessness, eliminate the claims backlog and modernize VA’s files.

Shulkin said most of his 12-point reform plan won’t require additional funding from Congress, but many parts will require new legislation authorizing significant changes in rules and authorities.

Some of those are already underway. The Senate is scheduled to vote in June on new accountability legislation that would make it easier to fire misbehaving VA employees. The House earlier this month approved new legislation to simplify the disability claims appeals process.

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