U.S. veterans agency to reorganize around customer service

Mon Nov 10, 2014 6:13pm EST
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By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Veterans Affairs Department on Monday launched a broad reorganization aimed at providing a single access point to the agency's services as it seeks to dig itself out of a massive scandal over long waiting times for health care.

Under the plan, announced by VA Secretary Bob McDonald on the eve of the Veterans Day holiday, the VA will appoint a new chief customer service officer and establish a single website or phone access point for all VA services by region from medical care to disability benefits to home loans.

The new customer service officer will report directly to McDonald, a former chief executive of consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble Co who took charge of the agency in July.

"We've begun what may become the largest restructuring in the department's history," McDonald told a forum sponsored by the Washington Post on Monday. "We call that reorganization My VA. That's how we want veterans to view it."

He said the reorganization, which also will combine support services for various VA divisions, is designed to change the agency's culture to create better outcomes for veterans.

The VA scandal revealed that regional agency officials in some cases had covered up months-long waiting lists for medical appointments in order to meet internal goals that enabled them to receive bonus awards.

Representative Jeff Miller, the Republican chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, expressed frustration with the lack of firings at the agency, despite new disciplinary powers granted to McDonald in legislation passed in July.

"New plans, initiatives and organizational structures are all well and good, but they will not produce their intended results until VA rids itself of the employees who have shaken veterans' trust in the system. So far VA hasn’t done that," Miller said in a statement on the VA's restructuring.   Continued...

A military veteran checks the sizing of a suit jacket in San Francisco, California November 10, 2014. Homeless and low-income veterans received a complete suit and tips on how to look for job and housing interviews, a day before Veteran's Day. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith