the

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie State of VA Community Town Hall

hello I'm David Frank evallo with the Veterans experience office today we are

broadcasting live the first secretary Wilkie stated the VA virtual community

town-hall event we've invited folks from across the nation for a community forum

to be part of the conversation is occlude the VSOs state and county

nonprofits academia community Veteran engagement boards community leaders

federal non federal agencies advocates stakeholders service providers Veterans

families caregivers and survivors today we'll have two major fire parts the

first 1.5 hours will include a discussion of the state of the VA and

the collective impact of the community which we led by the senior leader of the

VA followed by a Q&A panel featuring Jim warts key executive director for

community engagement and vo executive in charge VHA dr. Richard Stone

Undersecretary of benefits Dr. Paul Lawrence and undersecretary memorial

Affairs Randy Reeves the second panel will feature alfie Alvarado Ramos

president of the state v a National Association of the State Department of

Veterans Affairs Herman brewer president of the National

Association of County Veterans Service officers and Anthony Wickham joint staff

j1 personnel programs National Guard Bureau Steven Austin senior executive se

has three assistant chief of army reserve office the commander Army

Reserve they will discuss how they are partnering with the VA to build capacity

form partnerships and share what they are doing with local communities to

support veterans and their families today's vodcast will be recorded and

posted on the VA v EO website post event during the panel Q&A sessions we will

try to get as many questions as we can and those we cannot get to we'll do our

best to follow up and post answers on the VA website visit va.gov /ve as in

victor alpha it gives me great pleasure to introduce the tenth secretary of the

veteran affairs the Honorable Robert Wilkie Mr

Wilkie was confirmed by the United States Senate on 23 July 2018 and sworn

in on 30 July 2018 after early serving earlier serving as

the VA as acting secretary before coming to the VA Mr Wilkie was an

Undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness the principal advisor to

the secretary and deputy secretary on defense on the total force management

over 20 years of experience at the national and international letter and as

Undersecretary of defense Mr Wilkie served under James Madison assistant

secretary of defense he served under Bob both Robert Gates and Donald Rumsfeld

before that Mr Wilkie was a special assistant to the president for national

security affairs and a senior director of the National Security Council for

five years Mr Wilkie was vice president for strategic programs for ch2m Hill one

of the largest engineering and program management firms in the world he is an

officer in the United States Air Force Reserve and he has previously served in

the Navy Reserve with the Joint Forces intelligence command methyls Naval

Special Warfare group two and the Office of Naval Intelligence

I would also ignite to acknowledge that he's a fellow graduate of the US Army

War College among his many awards and decorations Mr Wilkie is a recipient of

the Defense distinguished Public Service Medal the highest non career civilian

award for that department ladies and gentlemen VA secretary mr.

Robert Wilkie hello everyone thanks for joining us you've heard it said before

but it bears repeating we cannot do everything for veterans alone we rely on

community-based partnerships to serve veterans so the work you're doing at the

grassroots level where veterans and their families live and work is

immensely important on behalf of all the veterans we serve together

thank you yesterday I testified before the United States Senate about our

vision for America's veterans I'm glad to report that after some turmoil in the

first half of 2018 the state of our VA is better it's better because of the

support of the President Congress in an unprecedented series of legislative

action to reform VA and improve care and

benefits for veterans and it's better because of great work VA employees are

doing tackling tough issues that have vexed us for decades and across the

Carolinas during this time of great need surrounding hurricane Florence VA

employees have worked around the clock to serve and protect veterans and

provide foundational emergency response from our government as a Carolinian I'm

grateful to them on behalf of my fellow veterans my family and my friends and I

cannot begin to tell you how thankful and how proud I am of all of them our

priority at VA is customer service that is my prime directive I'm privileged to

champion vaz commitment to excellent government service for all veterans

service members their families caregivers and survivors in delivery of

care benefits and memorial services when veterans come to our VA it is not up to

them to get us to say yes it is up to us to get veterans to yes that's customer

service excellent customer service is my responsibility and the responsibility of

all of our VA employees for the first time we have a customer service strategy

framework and governance structure and VA is the customer service lead for the

entire federal government we will be guided by our core values integrity

commitment advocacy respect and excellence and we will strive to ensure

consistent delivery of high quality care benefits and memorial services many of

you can help us in that sharing your insights perspectives what you're

hearing from veterans will help make sure there are no gaps in supporting

veterans in your communities that's a lot that can happen in Washington DC but

that's not where the most important work is the most important work happens at

the local level communities have the greatest potential to improve the

quality of life for our nation's military veterans their families

caregivers and survivors that's why we're partnered with communities and

stakeholders they're organizations across the country

listening to you we're learning we're building on the momentum of successful

community engagement models was only three years ago that the first community

veterans engagement board met in Connecticut today they're nearly 150 we

established the veteran friendly communities initiative to encourage even

more communities to organize those clubs see Babs help veteran advocates service

providers veterans and stakeholders to identify community goals and resolve

challenges locally than improved service delivery and our veterans see tangible

outcomes in Northeast Ohio in collaboration with VA state county and

community partners nearly 1,000 veterans receive services in just two-and-a-half

days they file claims enrolled in health care and learned

about their memorial benefits at Pikes Peak they hosted a clergy training

program in June that brought together over 50 partners from across more than

40 organizations building relationships promoting growth reaching more and more

veterans and Families and we're going to continue strengthening strategic

partnerships by leveraging a combination of data tools and technology their force

multipliers for each of our outreach efforts RBA is giving veterans access to

care and benefits a VA that veterans choose because we offer world-class

customer service across all of our operations and we need you all of you to

achieve that vision for veterans who have given so much to America I'll end

with the story I'm very proud of and it comes from President Eisenhower a few

months after he was inaugurated President Eisenhower was told that he

had inherited a presidential yacht being a man from America's heartland President

Eisenhower thought that the yacht was an extravagance unworthy of a democracy at

war but the one person whose orders he could not counter manned Mamie told him

that he needed to keep it but only take it out when America's warriors were on

board so a few months after the inauguration

40 Korean War soldiers some horribly disfigured others missing limbs gathered

on the yacht Williamsburg and many of you have seen the Washington kabuki

dance that followed the president got into his limousine got to the Washington

Naval Yard but before he could get on the ship the Secret Service ran ahead of

him to separate the commander-in-chief from his troops as only a man like

Eisenhower could do he yelled halt get behind me

I know these men he got up on the deck and he asked those who could to stand at

attention and he addressed them as a commander addresses his troops he said

that you will never put away your uniform you live every day to remind

Americans that the price of freedom is never free and speaking in the same way

that his friend from England George Orwell did he said you also remind

Americans that they sleep soundly at night because of your sacrifice I can

think of no better testament to the mission of VA than to say that we're

about reminding our fellow citizens that the cost of freedom is never free and we

remind our fellow Americans while they sleep soundly at night the future of our

veterans is in your hands and you've shown time and again that

that's well placed thank you and god bless all of you and your families and

god bless America's warriors now let's take some questions Thank You mr.

secretary take some questions from our community

audience in fact we've gotten hundreds of questions in and I hope we can get to

as many as we can for those that have registered for today's event you can

type in your questions in real time click ask questions to be part of our

conversation sir the first question is from Andrew in Orlando customer service

is your highest priority for the VA and your leadership

what does good customer service look like in the behavior of employees in the

experience of veterans and their families caregivers and survivors let me

start off with a an answer that is probably not one that we think of when

we think of customer service as I've said across our VA from Las Vegas to

Boston customer service must fir to begin with ourselves we have to talk

to each other and with each other across compartmented barriers within our VA so

that we cross pollinate our ideas and experiences with each other and we

better prepare ourselves to serve and honor our customers with effective

benefits and health service delivery that are easy to access we create a

positive and consistent emotional experience that is the heart of what we

do veterans and their families and

caregivers will then trust and use VA we're actively implementing a

customer-focused tool at our hospitals and clinics to improve those experiences

including we care rounding standard phone greetings on the moment training

and more importantly our red crow red code ambassadors program to listen to

our veterans voices and needs we've built veteran signals a real-time survey

feedback tool currently over 70% of our outpatient feedback is positive and I

was happy to tell the United States Senate that yesterday but that said we

also received concerns and recommendations that focus on areas like

safety pain management phone wait time and travel pay that feedback allows us

to pinpoint and improve those areas and deliver better customer service thank

you sir and we're starting getting a lot more questions and several compliments

for thanking you for giving this presentation in time today the next

question is from Rob Robert Andy Washington DC what can members of our

sieve ABS and veteran friendly communities do to best support your

customer service goals let me start talking about what I can do

in my travels around the country I interact with not only our political

leadership but I interact with the media and I've told our VA community that one

of my most important duties is to tell the good stories that are happening in

VA across the country so in response my charge to you is to get involved be our

partner invite others to be part of a see Babb or other veteran advocacy group

and be part of the solution at the local level tell us what your veterans and

families need make improvements locally such as filling gaps and transportation

in respite care encourage our veterans to complete our surveys we use those

tools we read them and I was able to report to the Senate about our most

recent results yesterday give us the information we need to improve services

where it matters most I'm paying attention to these and so are my leaders

mr. Kerry Bob from Colorado Springs how can communities help improve the

customer service experience of service members as they transition into veteran

status well let me talk about what my previous job was and what the response

of secretary mattis was is to your question previously I was the

Undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness and I was charged with

making that transition to veteran status as easy as possible for those coming off

of active duty we've initiated at the Department of Defense a whole series of

programs on education on transition on education and on the services that are

available to veterans in that transition period between active service and

veteran status I'm glad that we have a partner in the Secretary of Defense I'm

also glad that the Secretary of Defense uses VA when he returns home to

Washington to see his family several times a year so we need everybody

especially our sieve ABS to also connect with service members during their

transition back to civilian life start doing that before they're discharged

through the re-entry process into their new life and continue the support until

they fully reintegrated back into our communities I want to say one thing that

I think is most important about VA we speak a language that is unique the

language of the military culture those young people coming off of active duty

know that they can reach out to us because so many of us have shared their

experiences in uniform so my charge is also to reach out to the installations

in your local community not just active duty but to our Guard and Reserve

components to invite them to join you our Veterans Benefits Administration and

the Department of defense transition Assistance Program

tap engage six months prior to discharge and conduct targeted outreach twelve

months post discharge to integrate veterans into VA health benefits and

services to get the items they need as a civilian and the items they need to take

care of their families we want you to distribute welcome kits to service

members in transition and to veterans who may have used VA but can also still

benefit from its services sir I think we have time for just one more question Dan

and Boothbay Maine what difference will veterans and their families see and our

customer service as a result of the passage of the Mission Act will there be

more access yes sir let me let me talk a little bit about the past as we inform

the future I am proud to tell people that one of the joys of coming into this

department every day is that I share the office and the desk once owned by

General of the army Omar Bradley who was the head of the Veterans Administration

immediately after World War two general Bradley is probably not only the most

famous be a leader but its most visionary leader he was faced with the

VA that was about to accept 11 million American warriors coming off of active

duty in World War two and he had to figure out how we achieved a holistic

approach to serving them by including the civilian sector by including the

academic sector by bringing the Department of Defense into the mix and

creating a formula by which we could serve veterans best that has really been

the way we function since the 1940s but this mission Act that was passed this

year will fundamentally transform elements of EA's healthcare system

fulfill the president's commitment to provide veterans with more choice in

their health care providers providers closer to their homes and prevent a

funding shortfall in the current veterans Choice Program the Act will

consolidate VA zku mmunity care programs into a new veterans community care

program this will strengthen VA by merging the department's community care

programs into one system that is easier to navigate for veteran

VA employees and community partners this helps us serve veterans better and helps

veterans get the right care at the right time where they need it our program of

comprehensive assistance for family caregivers is expanded to all eligible

veterans of all eras of service that means we have created we have redressed

an historic wrong so for the first time our family caregivers from Vietnam from

Korea and World War two will now be part of our VA family post 9/11 veterans have

benefited greatly from this program and we're working with Congress to secure

funding for this greatly needed expansion we anticipate a hundred and

fifty thousand veterans as I said of all eras who may be eligible for the program

when the changes are implemented as I mentioned general Bradley this is the

most transformative period in the history of our department I think it's

exciting and I look forward to working with all of you to implement it Thank

You mr. secretary well introduced our panels in one moment

without further ado I would like to introduce our distinguished VA panel

first up Jim Ward's key executive director for community engagement in ve

Oh veterans service members caregivers survivors and community partners with us

today welcome on behalf of dr. Linda Davis who could not be with us today due

to an injury there's our ve Oh pleasure to welcome

you va is partnering with communities across the country engaging our

communities and stakeholder organizations there's a lot that can

happen in Washington DC but the best most tangible and most important work is

caring for veterans that happens at the local level thank you all for joining us

today we offer our gratitude to the volunteers

and community partners who are consciously to improve the lives of the

veterans neighbors we recognize that best solutions for veteran is not always

going to be at a VA hospital or clinic we understand by working together with

community partners veteran benefits from a better holistic veteran experience we

are excited to share a modernized outreach and engagement approach to

synchronize and unify community efforts and v---aids outreach offices to create

an integrated feedback loop with initiatives that are data-driven

deliberate and intentional to improve customer service the community

partnerships we've seen tangible outcomes such as collaborations with

community veteran engagement boards and community partnerships and the veterans

experienced action centers where recently has been referenced in

Northeast Ohio 932 veterans exactly receive services in two and a half days

we will have pop-up action centers that will place the communities where

veterans reside providing face-to-face services at

communities where our veterans live VA is also leaning forward and working with

DoD to fill a gap where a Reserve Component and

National Guard reside to ensure they have resources and information needed

for them to enable a smooth transition with the VA door collaboration with DoD

building healthy military communities initiative we're ensuring BH FC has an

understanding of collaborations and effort already in place in communities

by listening to all of you we have continued to learn and are now in the

process of building on the momentum of the successful community engagement

model and a familiar term you know as a community veteran engagement boards see

beds as you've heard and as we call it our combat multipliers they are

grassroots collaborative networks working together with one goal in mind

improving the outcomes for veterans service members caregivers and survivors

we modeled our C verbs off of a successful community veteran advocacy

group across the u.s. specifically San Diego's one VA board we needed that same

spark and passion that embodied to ignite across the nation now we have 149

C verbs across the country and that number is growing these communities are

fired up to come together and improve the lives of the veteran residents to

those groups that are already meeting the needs of their communities we say

thank you we want to join you please please let us be a more integrated part

of your solutions in areas where groups don't exist we hope to inspire a

community movement with local leaders if you are interested please contact us we

have the tools at framework and will help you across that finish line see

verbs are about getting all the right people who can make a difference in a

community at the same table to work collectively not competitively we have

the same mission Drive and passion to make a difference in our veterans lives

but we have to do it together once again collectively that's when and where we

can create a sea sniff acun and lasting change at the end

of the day it's not the VA experience that matters most but the veterans

experience Sivas provide a forum for veterans to easily identify and reach

people who can help them voice their opinions and provide valuable input to

improving resources designed to serve their needs starting with our local VA

leaders in your community we're building stronger relationships to work in tandem

with the best solutions for our veterans where they live and work

see beb's create networks improve access to resources bridge gaps and create

local solution what works in Jacksonville Florida may not work in

Madison Wisconsin and that's okay but from Anchorage to Houston Pittsburgh to

tamper more than 12.5 million veterans and 50 million families caregivers and

survivors currently reside in an area supported by a sieve AB one day we hope

to expand the footprint to see verbs of course all communities to foster a

coordinated system of care where veterans and their families thrive it's

very important to understand this principle though see verbs are not about

the VA at all there are grassroots movement focused on helping veterans

with the support they need right where they are the VA does not own see vets we

do however support and assist what the see vets tell us is important to their

communities see verbs are community initiatives local induced initiatives

they include representatives from all parts of the VA but are driven by local

community leaders that's why I see verbs are so effective they can reach and help

veterans places that the VA cannot do alone VA has enormous resources see

verbs are one of our conduits for communities to access those resources we

want see maps to see those resources as their tools we want see verbs to see the

VA as their partner well we want see reps

to CVA as a tool make no mistake about it we are also using si verbs as one of

our tools and that tool is to listen see verbs act as a megaphone from the

community directly into the ears of our hospitals benefits and cemetery

directors we are listening we are listening in your communities through si

verbs we are listening in our facilities with the veterans experience feedback

tool a powerful new survey connecting with veterans immediately at the time of

their VA interaction we are listening to your trending issues to the VA to the

White House VA hotline a 24/7 call center we are listening to you to the

veterans family caregiver and survivor Advisory Committee chaired by senator

Elizabeth Dole we are listening and we are acting we're implementing new

customer service training to improve the patient and benefit experience based on

what you've told us we're creating new opportunities for veterans to receive

more care at home instead of at assisted care facilities we're creating a culture

within VA that ensures the process is centered on what makes sense for

veterans not the VA human centered design principles are at the core of all

efforts and see verbs or evidence of that please engage with us tell us what

we can do better tell us what is working tell us what is not visit our website

for tools best practices and frameworks that we have developed based on your

successes to maximize our collective impact and at the end of the day what

truly matters is improving care and services to our veterans you are making

such incredible impact and our team at the veterans experience office and I

thank you for everything you do on behalf of Linda Davis our chief

veteran's experience officer and our team thank you for joining us today and

working with us to improve the veterans experience thank you David

I'd like to next introduce executive in charge

VHA talk to Richard Stone thank you first of all let me begin by saying

thank you to the secretary and thank you to Linda Davis for the leadership that

she's shown and making customer service the centerpiece of our transformation

I'm very proud to be with you today and represent the 300,000 plus employees

of the Veterans Health Administration who care for more than nine and a half

million veterans who have really engaged in us the ability to deliver excellent

health care they've in that engagement they've expressed a trust in us that

trust is a sacred trust that we don't take lightly we recognize that there's

nearly 20 million veterans in this nation only about half of them have

really sought care from us we believe that this customer service effort should

be the centerpiece that brings the other 10 million plus veterans to us for their

care the secretary talked about some of the work that we're doing but remember

that in the VHA we have four primary missions the first I've talked about

slightly which is the the delivery of health care and I've talked about the

trust that goes into the decision a veteran makes when they come to us for

that care but our second mission is research and that research is entrusted

to us almost two billion dollars a year in American taxpayer dollars to do

research on the injuries that are sustained in service as well as the

diseases that occur as the result of service we're very proud of the research

that's being done and we're very proud of the nearly 1,700 academic

affiliations we have around the United States and the world that supports that

research our third mission is training more than

70% of the physicians in this nation are trained in VA hospitals and VA health

care institutions I am one I completed my training and the old Ann Arbor VA

that is now the Detroit VA and I'm quite proud to say that my relationship to the

VA has remained ever since finally our fourth mission is our emergency response

capability we are the safety net for the American people when a disaster happens

whether it is a shooting in Orlando at a nightclub or it is hurricane Florence

coming up the East Coast today as we speak there are hundreds of VA employees

delivering hurricane response in southern Virginia North Carolina and

South Carolina in our mobile clinics that we placed because the destruction

of some of our community-based clinics or in individual shelters where they're

seeking veterans who need help prior to the arrival of Florence more

than 11,000 at-risk veterans were contacted by VA employees to ensure

their safety to ensure their oxygen supply was right to ensure if they had

limited mobility they were safe they were moved if necessary and the

hospitals that we moved them to we assured were in in safe environments the

second area of an important transformation as part of this customer

service transformation that we're talking about is becoming a learning

organization and what I mean by that is we need to in a much more rapid manner

deliver the results of our research in our advances or our best practices

across this very large system today it takes us too long to take a best

practice that might occur in a hospital in South Carolina and propagated across

our system part of becoming a learning organization

is empowering our employees at the appropriate level to make decisions not

dependent upon senior leadership's concurrence but when a decision seems

right to move forward with it finally I want to talk a little bit about

modernization of our system which is a third pillar of our transformation

modernizing the centerpiece of modernization is our electronic health

record modernization from our current Vista system which has served us so well

for many decades to the new Cerner system which will be the same as the

Department of Defense we do this because it forces us to re-examine all of our

business processes it forces us into a common platform to share data for the

benefit of active duty servicemen and the lifetime of our veterans it helps us

modernize how we operate but most importantly it gives our veterans a

uniform experience when they come to see us I invite your participation in this

effort but most importantly I invite your support and your counsel as we go

forward later in this this panel you will hear from a number of our county

and state partners we are dependent upon them to help be our eyes and ears as we

go through this modernization towards truly great customer service thank you

it's my honor now to introduce Undersecretary of benefits dr. Paul

Lawrence thank you David

the Veterans Benefits Administration distributes and manages the benefits

that veterans have earned on the right you can see our portfolio of products

that we take care of let me go home through and highlight a couple

compensation is the payments we make to veterans who have suffered a service

related injury while they were servicemembers as you can see our

projections are that will pay over five million veterans ninety five billion

dollars we run a pension program for veterans who are in difficult situations

education refers to most regularly the GI Bill service members became veterans

they earned benefits to go on and be educated and that's the GI Bill VR&E

stands for voc rehab that's our counseling effort to veterans

you need special attention and help as they transition back into the workplace

and housing refers to the VA back mortgages that we administer so people

can one day own a home and build wealth and finally the insurance portfolio is

something as mr. Wilke points out in reference to the 100 years ago World War

one ended the insurance portfolio is also a hundred years old and it's

actually the twelfth largest insurance portfolio in the United States where we

pay veterans who invested in insurance planning for the future and amongst the

reason they invest in US based on our surveys is the trust they have that

they'll actually get their money and their lower right you can see that we

have a very large footprint across the United States and into territories and

well as employing more than 20,000 employees in the VBA the next slide

talks about some of our priorities and like dr. stone we also have three

priorities the first one on the upper-left talks about providing

veterans their benefits in a manner that honors their service this is very

similar and Mister of war Mr Wilkie here I say identical to his theme on customer

service but we chose this language so it captures Mr Wilkie points out that

special nature of veterans dealing with veterans that there's something very

special about that and then what we do at VBA is some things that our veterans

experience in the regular world we answer phones we processes case we open

mail their expectations that we'll deliver very strong if not world-class

service and that's what we're striving for below I listed some of the

accomplishments and the hundred days I've been and I've been

here we've done things like streamline the headquarters at VBA so we could

allocate some more resources to a new office it's called Oh Ted the office of

transition and economic development so we can better help veterans reintegrate

into the the working world in addition we've hired more VR ne counselors first

because it's the right thing to do and second because we're required by law so

we can provide more customized attention to our veterans as they transition back

in the middle we talk about fiscal stewardship with over a hundred billion

dollars to distribute it's very important and we understand its

importance to treat this money carefully and accurately this is something we take

very seriously the accomplishments we focused on are watching out for fraud

waste and abuse and improper payments we understand the very sacred trust the

American people have given us with this large sum of money we want to make sure

we're paying very special attention to that and finally on the right hand side

we're talking about fostering a culture of collaboration this is understanding

as everyone spoken about today that VA is important in this veterans journey

but we also do with many other people VBA we work very closely with the

veteran's service organizations and the county and state folks who you hear from

in a few minutes is dr. stone spoke about their very special partners we

make efforts to engage them directly and regularly on a formal agenda we deal

with engagement across our organization we have a director's Advisory Council so

we can hear from folks in the field delivering services to veterans as well

as being part of the broader VA Enterprise so that we stay connected to

that extent and finally I listed the portfolio of products and things we do

at the very first slide but I think it's also important to take a step back and

think about how we really think about VBA and what it does and I think about

VBA helping veterans you know kind of succinctly helping them realize the

American Dream and let me explain for a minute if you go back to the Declaration

of Independence you'll recall the phrase life liberty and the pursuit of

happiness well this time pursuit of happiness meant economic well-being and

prosperity and if you think about the programs we have and the times that mr.

willing could talk about general Bradley showing up to run the for the beginning

of the VA you begin to see that time the World War two had ended it was

coming to an end his people were planning for what would happen to the

veterans as they were returned how would they reiterated to the working world and

this is when the GI Bill first would appeared folks were also wearing about

where would they live that's when the home loan product started and then of

course it grew we had compensation for people who had been injured appeals and

the like in that sense voc rehab counselors and insurance for planning

these were the products and the activities that people could do to

reintegrate and find a good career and get back into what they had done before

they've gone off to protect us the office of transition and economic

development is very important to us because we want to help people

understand the portfolio of these benefits you may be able to understand

exactly what you need but what we're thinking about is how the

world is changing take a service member who enlisted when he or she was 17 or 18

and comes out now three or four years later perhaps they have no role models

in their life of what they did for higher education and this is a good

example to contrast for say 50 years ago that period of time higher education

meant going to college but now of course as many opportunities it could be

college it could be an apprenticeship it could be online learning these things

might be difficult to handle and we know VBA can help folks conversely are also

aware that folks who are not younger are now experiencing differences in the

working world jobs have changed new skills are needed and they're turning to

VBA so we see that there's an active role for us to play as people begin to

realize the American Dream and take advantage of all the benefits they've

earned so I agree with Mr Wilkie and others who have spoken it's really an

exciting time to be here at the VA the president value is what we're doing the

Congress has been very generous everybody is rooting for us to succeed

we're very excited as Jim has pointed out we'll all look forward to working

together on this mission thank you and finally the Honorable undersecretary

memorial Affairs Randy Reeves thank you David

it's my honor to be a part of this team here serving our veterans each and every

day it's also my honor to be able to speak to the vast audience of people

devoted to serving veterans across America as a Navy and Air Force veteran

self it is my privilege to carry on President Lincoln's legacy to honor

veterans in perpetuity I'm not just the undersecretary for cemeteries

I'm the undersecretary for memorial affairs and our mission at NCA is to do

everything possible to truly memorialize those who have worn the cloth of our

nation our vision at NCAA is simple and it's very straightforward our vision is

to ensure that no veteran ever dies it has been said that each and every one of

us died two deaths we die the first death when breath leaves us for the very

last time but we only truly die and at the time no one speaks our name or tells

our story it is that second death that we are committed to making sure our

veterans never experience the National Cemetery administration is comprised of

136 national cemeteries across the nation and we provide perpetual care to

over four and a half million veterans and their family members we maintain

over 9,000 developed acres of national shrines and of course we could not do

this alone in fiscal year 17 alone volunteers donated almost four hundred

and sixty-six thousand volunteer hours and service to our national cemeteries

we also partner with a hundred and eleven National Cemetery administration

grant funded state and tribal cemeteries to make sure that this mission is is

taken care of each and every day for our veterans in

the past nine months I've visited nearly 50 national state and tribal veterans

cemeteries across the country I see the pride in all of our team members and

maintaining these hallowed grounds and over and over I hear them say I treat

each veteran and family member as if it were my mother or my father and that's

the truth that's exactly what they do each day in my world there are two type

of heroes there are veterans and there are those who serve veterans we are

fortunate in the National Cemetery administration too happy to be among

both types of heroes in the next few slides I'll highlight

some efforts that we're doing to achieve those three priorities that are on the

slide you're seeing right now one of our key initiatives is the veterans legacy

program recently I was down in Florida when a student told me that the combat

veteran that he was researching served in World War one he was a graduate

student and I asked the young man what was important about the veterans legacy

program to him and what he said to me is sir I was able to bring my veteran back

to life the veteran that he had researched was a World War one veteran

who had been lost to history but through his research and through his

work that veteran is now being his story is being told and his name is being

spoken and he will never be forgotten we currently have partnerships in ten

universities across six states and our goal is to partner with universities and

organizations in each of our 50 states and also in our territories with the

veterans Legacy Program as a part of this program we have professors and

teachers who have do extensive research on our veterans I recently received a

note from Miss Allison Browning from JP McCaskey high school in Lance castor

Pennsylvania she wrote me it has been awesome to research a war war one fallen

hero from Pennsylvania who is buried at Fort Indiantown Gap it has been

wonderful to visit the World War one sites in Europe and it really put

historical events and battles into context and perspective I am excited to

share what I learned through this process with my community my colleagues

and my students and that's really what this program is all about is to take

that information back to the communities and to bring that that information to

our students to our young people so that they can be a part of this national

movement to make sure that our veterans are honored forever and I'd ask each and

every one of you to take a look at our legacy web page and it's located on our

webpage at CEM va.gov

someday we'll be able to walk up to headstones and use a smart device to be

able to interpret the letters that are on a headstone and that will and at that

point you'll be able to pull up the history and the information about a

veteran of their service what they've done even after service pictures photos

uploaded by families and a number of other things

well that times now we are just about ready to launch our digital platform so

that we will be able to have that in each of our national cemeteries so that

the public can go there and be able to access information about our veterans at

any time using this digital platform I've been down and tested the prototype

in Florida and it works and it's a wonderful wonderful tool to memorialize

our veterans in such a special way today over ninety two percent of America's

veterans have a burial option in a national state or tribal cemetery within

75 miles of their home our goal is to reach 95 percent by the year 2022 we're

ahead of schedule I might note and we have not forgotten about what I call the

hardest five percent that's that other five percent of veterans that live

mainly in our highly rural areas across the nation we're working with Congress

and communities and many many others to make sure that we put programs in place

so that they can be honored like the rest of our veterans across the country

this is why I'm excited to end my prison presentation talking about the

successful partnership we have with state and tribal governments in a 111

state and tribal veteran cemeteries that complement our national cemeteries by

providing veterans with additional dignified burial options we are

providing a service that we could not otherwise provide in burial benefits to

as many veterans as we do across the nation in FY 17 the 38,000

interments that are listed on the slide that you're seeing translates into about

22% of all the burials in national state and tribal cemeteries that's significant

I believe that this is one of the most effective no I don't believe I know that

this is one of the most effective state and federal partnerships in our entire

government veterans and their families live in local communities and no one

knows them better than our local partners I believe that we can best

serve our veterans by empowering inane and enabling our state and local

partners as I said before that's where our veterans live locally thank you for

caring so much about America's veterans and thank you for this opportunity to be

able to speak to this audience thank you David thank you at this time

we're gonna take some questions from our community on it's in fact we've received

twelve hundred and sixty-four questions so we're gonna give to as many as we

possibly can the first question I don't have a name

on it but the question is how can I have a voice in the community on the services

I received from the VA and what is the VA doing with communities to support us

where we live Jim I think that might fall here let me start off this answer

VA is listening to the veterans voices and their families across communities

through various outreach and engagement efforts in addition to data tools and

technology that enable a modernized approach to improve how we do business

we are synchronizes community engagement efforts and outreach efforts to create

an integrated feedback tool with initiatives that are data-driven

deliberate and intentional to improve customer service so we are measuring

trust easy motion effectiveness at all VHA facilities in fact with about

150,000 surveys per week to veterans we are able to pinpoint opportunities for

improvement and you know actually at this time I mentioned VHA in the 150,000

surveys so dr. stone if you wish to comment on our emphasis and he

listening to the veterans in and medical centers in our communities so first of

all Jim thanks and and I we we all appreciate the surveys that are being

done and and they help give us an important pulse check of how we're doing

with the veterans that we're serving I think I think I'd like to go back to the

question and that is how do I have my voice heard and I think it's really

important for us to recognize the fact that we we need to be responsive to the

veteran community and I talked during my my more formal comments about the

veterans that have chosen us and those that haven't that voice can be heard

through the VSOs so I encourage your participation in the VSOs or if that's

not appropriate for you I encourage you to reach out to places like our vet

centers that are distributed in 300 different locations around the United

States that you can reach out to and come in and really discuss your needs

and they can connect you into our systems I think that the thirdly just

reaching out to the healthcare institutions and saying you know how can

I be a volunteer how can my voice be heard the secretary talked about our red

coats those are great ways for people to begin to participate with us help them

to understand what we're about and help them to recognize the fact that our

doors are open and we want your input so Jim thanks thank you

next question looks like this is for you mr. Reaves

my community where can I learn about legacy programs at our local VA cemetery

and it's followed by a second part of that question how can the university I

work with getting more information about the legacy program well Jim our thank

you for that that question and first of all our Legacy Program all the

information is on our website at WWE MVA CoV anyone can also call our legacy

office at two zero two four six one five three six two but to answer the question

colleges and universities can apply for grants to be able to serve in this

capacity where they do research each and every day in our national cemeteries

people can learn about the program as it is right now on our website and they can

also learn about it by calling our legacy office they'll send you

information all you have to do is call them I know that we'll post all of the

information that I just stated after you know with this program secondly I

encourage if you are a veteran service organization if you're a community

partner if you're in a sea vibe or if you're a veteran in your community

encourage your local university college or nonprofit organization who may be

doing this kind of work to contact us so that we can help them through the

granting process because as I said before we want to extend this to every

state in the nation so that all of our veterans can be remembered forever and

so that we can as I said make sure that no veteran ever dies thank you very much

appreciate miss Reeves the next one is actually a compliment thanking us for

putting on this presentation the next question I have is from Dave in New

Mexico tell me more about the mission Act and anything new on the new GI bill

why don't I start with the new GI bill so the the new GI bill is mr. Wilke

pointed out was one of a series of laws passed in 2017 to you know help veterans

some sections of the bill went into effect immediately in August of 2017 but

a bulk of them seventeen sections of the bill we're going to effect on August 1st

of this year we implemented 15 of those sections on time and the last two that

remained have to do with some technology issues those are going a little slower

than we estimated but in terms of veterans going to school and being paid

we've made a commitment from the very beginning that that would happen so as

we saw this kind of coming into focus we hire 200 additional people to manually

process the veterans checks and there are housing allowances

in the like so everyone's getting paid unfortunately it's on last year's rates

but we only think they're about one percent off on the new rates as we

understand them so our commitment is you will get paid you all should be able to

go to school the schools know this and our commitment is that if we overpaid

you you can keep the money and if we've underpaid you once we get things back up

and going we will reconcile that so you get the additional money so our intent

is to veterans to go to school that's what's happening and it's much more

about you know understanding the situation we're in and how we're gonna

make it right when it all is up and going so let me jump into this and pull

thanks for your answer and Dave thanks for a good question

the mission Act will fundamentally transform the Health Administration and

let me begin by saying it closes out the choice Act which was put in place after

our access crisis of 2014 and moves us from more than a dozen different ways of

buying care in the community to a single method and you so you'll see at the end

of this year or end of this calendar year you'll see us executing some

contracts that allow us to more effectively by care in the community it

also allows us to recognize the role of caregivers across all ages and service

areas of veterans and currently we can only support caregivers for those post

9/11 families that's just inappropriate and thankfully the mission Act will

allow us to recognize caregivers that are supporting our great veterans at

home over first our pre Vietnam and Vietnam era and then secondly about 24

months later between the Vietnam era and the 9/11 veteran and so within the next

two years all families will have this benefit

available to them I think thirdly it begins to clarify

demands that we do a complete study of the healthcare delivery system that's

been in place since 1947 well frankly since 1947 many of our veterans have

moved veterans aren't in the same spots that they used to be or where we have

institutions and it demands that we study beginning this fall all 98 of our

service delivery areas and then emerge from that two-year study to a commission

that will begin to evaluate whether we have the right footprint in place for

the future for the next 10 to 20 to 40 years so those are some of the things

that the mission Act does thank you very much we're getting a lot of questions on

choice and Community Care Network what changes will the Mission Act bring to

the choice program and how do you plan on communicating to the public this is a

generic question from several of our audience participants and I think it

reflects the fact that our current more than dozen ways that we're buying care

is incredibly confusing and is confusing to the veteran is confusing to providers

and the idea of unifying into a single method of buying care will make it much

easier for us to assure payment to providers assure participation of

providers but make it much easier for veterans to understand when they're

eligible for care and when they need to come to us for their care now it does

not remove our role in helping to integrate what can be some very complex

care for our veterans because of the complexity of their service related

disabilities or injuries and it keeps us in partnership with them for the future

but it does allow us to be able to say to a veteran in a very clear manner

you're eligible for care and in the very near future you will hear us announce

the access standards for when you're eligible for care in the community and

when you're not and the Secretary is in the final stages of really working their

way through that decision on Act standards thank you very much mr.

undersecretary again I'm getting a lot of comments during the questions like if

I'm having an issue if I'm having a problem who do I contact and I'd like at

this point if I can give out the president's pledge the White House

hotline and that number is eight five five and I'm going to repeat this eight

five five nine four eight two three one one again eight five five nine four

eight two three one one and as part of the customer experience let me turn that

back to the distinguished panel how if I have an issue with the VA or any of the

services who would I get ahold of so for VBA for many of the issues I talked

about calls to that number emails to our website and the like get instant

attention on our website we have different call numbers for the different

services the GI Bill and the like so it's all right there my monitor

carefully the the attention we pay to those some are complex and they get

individually researched others are our requests for information so we try to

have as much up there so people can access the benefits in addition as I

indicated my formal remarks we answer a lot of phone calls trying to step the

veterans through the process one thing that I would like to comment on that

though is that as these calls are coming in quite often we look at the trends on

them we look at the analysis so if there is a situation that's happening we look

at a long-term solution so we can settle it so we're not just taking individual

calls in solving but we look at potential problems that we will solve so

we appreciate these calls coming into the White House outline because that

gives us an opportunity to analyze our systems and react to once again we're

working through modernization and we're trying to improve the process to serve

our veterans better thank you the next question it's coming and I don't have a

name on this first I would like to say thank you for the VA helping me get my

life back on track I truly appreciate it I have chronic pain I've been a chronic

pain patient severe cervical back damage I've been taking narcotic pain

medications is the Willing VA willing to start looking into experimental

medications and alternate treatments so I mean it's most appropriate I take

that one I think so absolutely look it is a national tragedy the fact

that we have so many of Americans that are addicted to narcotics across this

nation the VA I'm very proud of in that we have worked tirelessly to try and

find alternatives for opioids for for relief of chronic pain so we have looked

at holistic approaches from acupuncture to yoga therapy to massage therapy to

actually synthetic alternatives in fact we have just started a study in the non

psychotropic portion of marijuana that we have started looking at that chemical

for what effect it may have for both chronic pain as well as post-traumatic

stress disorder and so we're more than willing to look at it we need to find

alternatives to what has been a 30-year saga of increasing use of of narcotics

for chronic pain and I'm quite pleased that we're in the forefront of that work

the next question is there a place to make suggestions on how to prove the VA

and are there any other sites other than my healthy vet that I can go to yeah I

think there's lots of ways to come to us for improvement and I think you can get

on to our websites and and and leave us suggestions I think you can using kiosks

in our institutions should you have an appointment that things just don't go

the way you think they should you can leave us feedback that way I think both

Paul and Randy have talked about ways that you can you can come to us but you

can call the executive management at any one of our hospitals and and we will

route you into the place that you need to be to give us support and suggestions

we speak monthly or more frequently if necessary with our VSO partners who are

in our institutions and helping us understand where we can do better and so

Paula Randi I don't know if you have any other suggestions yes we received

tremendous feedback from the VSOs is often somebody helping them guide

through the process as well so that's one of the most effective ways our call

centers and the like take information too but the VSOs are very helpful to us

well now I would add to that one of the individuals it's going to be on the

panel just a little bit later from the National Association of state directors

of Veterans Affairs in your in your individual states you have directors of

Veterans Affairs and departments of Veterans Affairs and we are closely

linked with each and every one of those and we work with them as Paul and

enriched pointed out with our veteran service organizations but we also work

with our state partners and you can reach those issues through them just as

well as reaching out directly to us if you leave us a comment in any of our

administrations on any of our our media

outlets or ways of communication like Facebook or other things we respond to

each and every one of those so reach out to us in any way that you can connect

with us and if you recall we had talked about the community better and

engagement boards in which to them and we include not only state but also the

county commissioners and the local volunteers and we are pleased to gather

up all the information I'm very proud to say that about 70 percent of the

feedback that we receive is positive so we want to hear we've said that the C

verbs are there to listen we want to put out information but we also want to

listen we listen well and we listen for good bad and indifferent information so

please keep those flow of information back and forth with us because we want

to be part of your communities and we want to hear what the issues are so

thank you our next question from Margaret Ann I really appreciate what

the VA has done for me what is being done though about the appeals backlog a

great question that refers to the appeals of your eye

location for compensation for service related disability and you're right over

the last three or four years this had ballooned up there'd been a huge backlog

and the old appeal process often took somewhere from three to seven years as

it went through the process again going back to 2016 when the VA the hill the

VSOs got together and and essentially overhauled the appeals process that was

instituted into legislation in 2017 and we're in the process of rolling it out

which will start in February of 2019 so we're in the process of you know

implementing a new appeals process to things along the way one is we're

running a project now called rapid appeals modernization program ramp where

you can opt in to the process of having your appeal considered under these new

expedited lanes or sub process of it and that's going quite well if you're you

rather not here if you rather your appeal not wait 1,500 days in the old

process these are now being processed in 70 to 90 days and and people are getting

their claims settled in addition just so you know even once we have the new

appeals process in place we'll still have a significant backlog and our

commitment is to get the backlog down to zero by the end of 2020 we've heard a

lot about reestablishing public trust as the under secretaries how do you plan on

doing that with your individual administrations let me just start by

saying first of all in the National Cemetery administration we realize that

we only have one opportunity to get it right

and we engage with our veterans our communities and family members with that

being the first thing in mind from our perspective that's how we maintain the

trust that we have across the nation is to make sure that we're getting it right

every time and that we put ourselves as I said before in the place of the people

that we are serving each and every day and I believe in my in the National

Cemetery administration our customer service satisfaction ratings and all of

those things bear that out for us or at the top of all industry and I

think that VA in general is improving every day in our ability to reach out

and to gain the trust of America and America's veterans and I'm proud to just

be a part of this let me let me thank you for the question because it is at

the center point of what we're about in VHA and in restoring the trust of the

American people and the people of VA the only way you gain trust is to be

reliable and what I mean by that is when you come in for health care you expect

it to occur in a certain manner and you expect to emerge from that with exactly

what you signed up for and without being harmed and across American health care

in general there is too much harm done so you will hear us talking about across

our entire delivery system of getting to zero and what we talked about in that is

about reducing harm to zero in our processes but it is about reliable

processes so that every time you contact us every time you call us every time you

come to us for a visit it occurs in the manner that you expect

it meets your needs and if for any reason it doesn't meet your needs that

we respond to that quickly and appropriately to bring it back to where

you needed it to occur but that's the only way we restore the trust of the

American people and I might just like to add I'm I'm I'm not so certain as a

question to trust I understand your point dr. stone as Jim points out our

trust doors are going up and that tracks with what we see at VBA again in my

formal remarks our insurance product is well understood because people do trust

they will get paid and that's not always the way insurance works I also think in

VBA we think about it as meeting rising expectations again we deal with a lot of

processes that people experience elsewhere phone calls interactions and

the like and we know those expectations are being raised every day so we need to

stay abreast or if ahead of that we talk about delivering world-class service to

let everyone know we are serious about what we're doing and

want the experience you have with all of us in VA to be as good or better than

anything else you're experiencing elsewhere thank you one of the

foundations of trust and my opinion is in the communities and we need to be as

transparent as possible to believe in us we want a partner and I mentioned

earlier that the VA is communicating you were putting out information to the

communities but more importantly we're listening and we want to hear it and the

second step for that to build that trust is to continue in taking action and what

we hear and that's what we're doing that's the direction we've been going on

and I look forward to the future where our trust values would go up even higher

as we serve our communities partnering with our communities and working with

the trust factor increasing guadalupe asks is it true that all the 88 claims

will be mandatory for the ramp program a veg well yes and no eventually into the

future that will be but right now ramp is an opt-in and opt in opt in suggests

the selection another question for VHA what type of customer service training

do you have ongoing for your facilities well Linda Davis is leading an

extraordinary effort that Jim is part of and leading and so let me defer to Jim

but let me say to you that more than 124 of our our institutions have already

been through this customer service training

it's about owning the moment and so Jim let me defer to you where the my

pleasure my pleasure and and truthfully I'm not the expert although I had a

wonderful experience and seeing on the moment the rest of the ve team by miss

Hightower yes they did a great job on the moments as a px opportunity led by

Jennifer Purdy one of my peers in our organization she's doing an excellent

job for us so keep up the good work Jennifer and I understand that there's

only about ten more facilities within VHA to learn about on the moment and

that's only a point of it and then from there we go to VBA and we go to the

other administrations to teach it because as I mentioned it by

presentation we're listening to the communities we know we have to improve

customer service and now we take it some profession

all ways of going about teaching every staff member throughout the 360,000 plus

employees on what customer service is like so we will improve in doing that on

the moment is only a small effect of what VHA and Jennifer's team has done

for us let me just jump back onto that today as we're sitting here there there

will be more than 250 thousand doctor and clinical appointments completed

within VHA every one of those has at least six employee contacts to me that's

that's more than a million opportunities to do it right this also gives us some

opportunities if we don't do it right for that system or that process not to

meet the needs of that patient so we appreciate what you brought to us we

appreciate the partnership and that is really what we mean about owning the

moment but understanding the opportunities we have in interacting

with our patients and our beneficiaries as we continue with our own the moment

than VHA coming to a conclusion but they'll also be additional but we look

forward to serving with benefits and with the National Cemetery organization

next question hi I'm a 73 year old Vietnam veteran honorably discharged in

1968 I'm a resident Michigan I'm curious can

I be buried in the Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis South Dakota the

simple answer is yes if you're a veteran and eligible for burial in one National

Cemetery you're eligible for burial in all of our national cemeteries so yes

Lyle any of the national cemeteries next question was for Robert Wilkie but I'm

gonna probably be a chaser and this is how exactly our VA hospitals and clinics

funded who determines who gets what by state by the federal government so our

funding comes through the federal government as part of the federal budget

and the interesting thing about the way it is funded is we are funded in an

advanced appropriation and that what means that we're not liable when people

start talking about they can't reach agreement in

Congress and on a budget that might shut down the federal government we don't

shut down here in in VHA in the healthcare system we have an advanced

appropriation we know what we're going to get in one year out and that decision

has already been made for 19 and so we're in good shape but it comes from

Congress Congress is the president makes recommendations but Congress determines

what our advanced appropriation and what our eventual budget will will look like

now clearly we give input to that and we submit that to the secretary and the

secretary works his way through and then in discussion with the White House and

OMB comes to conclusions but you should know that we are well funded and and are

very very pleased with the latest budget agreement that has come that funds many

things that were priorities for us in this in this budget the next question

comes from Darren thank you so much for having the courage to do this on an

online forum I pray you allow veterans to be heard

and not and increase access to you on a regular basis are you aware of the

various VA we're at websites the bottom line we're getting a lot of questions on

whether or not we're going to continue this type of forum in a public forum by

individual administrations I know that we're going to be planning and doing

this frequently throughout the year as the veterans experience office but will

there be other approaches to addressing the audience in public forums such as

this I can speak for VBA we're going to start a quarterly call we call the

transparency call for stakeholders where we talk about what we've done throughout

the quarter in a similar way probably won't have as an exciting Q&A function

not so certain will do that but we want to make sure people understand what

we're doing both good and bad so look I I learn a lot every time I with the

other under secretaries and leadership I like the forum I like the fact that

it's we can reach out very quickly and and hear from the veteran and so VHA

will continue to the this and will look for additional forums to to create this

type of interaction with so well in NC a we look for any opportunity that we can

to be able to engage with our veterans and their families that we serve we have

a number of public facing products that we that we put out both on our website

Facebook and those kinds of things and then we invite feedback as we publish

things and ask people to please participate in those but I'll look for

any opportunity we possibly can to be able to do exactly this kind of thing so

that we can have that real-time two-way interaction I think it's so important

and as I noted earlier in my opening remarks I visited in 9 months already 50

cemeteries I'll be out there and I hope that I can see as many people who are

across the nation that we're serving personally can't get them all but we're

out there doing this each and every day and I know that dr. Lawrence's team has

already approached the ve o who is responsible for this

this forum right now however if there's any way that we could support from the

EEO to your agencies that's what we're here for

and then we'll support you in any way that we can absolutely I've been asked

by Denise can we get a transcript transcript to all the questions and

comments submitted to include transcripts why we'll tell you is we

will post the YouTube version of this on the va.gov website under the V EO and

that'll come out to all the email recipients I live 30 this is coming from

Douglas I lived 33 miles away from a VA facility can I go to the outside doctor

if I need an operation or a service so Douglas under the current choice program

it is a 40 mile limit and we are having a discussion with the secretary about

exactly what the limits should be and since the secretary hasn't made a final

decision I'm gonna leave it at that but stay

tuned you will hear very quickly certainly within the next few weeks

about changing the way we approach access I think it's one of the primary

questions that we get now from Capitol Hill as we get ready to to implement the

mission act as what are our access standards going to be now what we also

need to understand is is what problem you're facing and and we're not asking

for that in this form so that we understand how we can best serve you and

how we can get you into the care that's most appropriate for you and so stay

tuned within the next two weeks we'll be able to answer that question in a way

more acceptable manner now we have looked at Medicare standards we've

looked at TRICARE standards on access one of the things I want you to

recognize people will talk a little bit about TRICARE standards remember that

the TRICARE is divided into multiple different types of TRICARE from TRICARE

for life for the older Medicare eligible veteran to TRICARE prime which is the

highly managed part of TRICARE usually when they're talking about TRICARE

standards which the trikey they're talking about tricare prime so look

through those become familiar with them and then take a look at what we're going

to end up with but I would not want to get it in front of the secretary who

hasn't made a final decision yet the next question comes from Jeffery can you

tell us about the ramp program I'm hearing a lot about it what is it how

does it work and I've made several attempts can you tell me a little bit

more about the ramp appeals process sure again rapid Appeals modernization

program it was a way for people to opt-in before or have another

alternative to how their appeal might be processed so again the old method took

multiple years and this was a way for people to begin to experiment or have a

choice to have their appeal move through a different process there are different

ways you could ask for Europe your your appeal to be processed more attention

more review and even if you're unhappy or not satisfied that you can go back to

the old process so it's a selection in a VSO or service

officer could help you or somebody at VBA can help you determine if it's the

right choice for you but you don't lose your place in line so if you decide you

want to go back to the old way you can continue to do that as well next

question is from Ken Johnson I have contacted the White House hotline by the

way very super respectful waiting on them can you give that number out again

sure will the White House hotline is 8/5 Glen Jim eight five five nine four eight

three two three one one once again that's eight five five nine four eight

two three one one another VHA question well the choice program be permanent the

choice program is is going away to move into the mission act the ability to get

health care outside of the VA will be permanent and so as we stand up you'll

see a stand up these these contracts at the end of the year that will help us

move from the current choice into a single method of purchasing care which

is much more simplistic much easier to understand and so although choice as a

term is not permanent in the the Choice Act from 2014 the ability for you to

choose and to participate with your VA provider in how you receive your care

where you receive your care will will be a permanent process we only have time

for a couple more questions the next question is will the VA ever consider

giving chiropractic care at their hospitals or clinics I think we we

currently have chiropractic programs and I go back to the previous pain relief

question we use chiropractic in that we do not have as many chiropractors as we

should have but chiropractic will become part

of our delivery system and we are in a program also that we're in the early

stages of called whole health that uses chiropractic and massage therapy has a

modalities to reduce chronic pain as well as treat some of our PTSD chronic

problems and this looks like it would be the final question we had almost 2000

questions asked and we'll try to get back to as many as you can

many of them have similar themes but the final question is what is the VA doing

to plan to hire more veterans

I'll just interject one thing very quickly in the National Cemetery

administration seventy seven percent of our workforce is veterans today each

year that grows by a percent or two we're targeting veterans every day to

make sure that we hire as many veterans as possible the reason we do that is

because with 77 percent veterans in our workforce that means that there are

veterans serving veterans every day and in VBA we echo that veteran serving

veterans our workforce is 55 present veterans and when we go out for a job

announcement which you can find on our website

you know there's veteran preference and we honor that and embrace it so as I

think the answer is as much as possible to the question absolutely and and in

VHA it is it is the same just because of the sheer size of VHA some areas of our

force are policemen it is dramatically higher than in some

other areas where I'm looking for a thoracic surgeon or for a neurosurgeon

but we give preference to veterans we are looking for veterans always and we

encourage you if you think you have the skillsets that we need please come to us

we encourage your application well it looks like it's come to a time to the

end of the Q&A and to quote one of our visitors to our site thank you for the

courage get in front of this public forum thank you panelist we're gonna

take a quick break and we'll be back in a moment with our other panelists don't

go anywhere

welcome back it is with great honor that I present our second panel the

discussion will focus on how they are partnering with the VA to build capacity

form partnerships and share what they are doing with local community to

support veterans and their families during the panel Q&A session we'll try

to get to as many questions as we can those that we cannot get to we'll do our

best to follow up on and post answers on the VA website for the first panel we

received almost 2000 questions and don't forget go to va.gov /v is in Victor

alpha Victor echo excuse me without further ado I would like to introduce

our distinguished VA panel alfie Alvarado hromas president of the

National Association of the state directors of Veterans Affairs thank you

first of all I would like to thank secretary Wilkie for the invitation to

join this panel I am pleased for the inclusion as a National Association of

state directors of Veterans Affairs has been a long-term partner to VA and we

share many service priorities our membership is encouraged by the

Secretary's commitment to improve customer service by focusing on positive

veterans experiences the improvement of the infrastructure and that quality

services we stand ready to work our collective priorities in service to

those who served on behalf of NASA I welcome the opportunity to share with

you our state Department of Veterans Affairs role in the delivery of services

and how we interact with our federal partner the VA the states have the boots

on the ground that fill the post of our veterans community and the agility to

provide just-in-time services to our veterans and their eligible family

members as the governor's appointed veteran's advocate we provide our

community with opportunities opportunities to connect to and utilize

the many benefits and services available based on a national best practice model

we are on the front lines nós table was established in 1946 at the

close of World War two there is a state director of Veterans Affairs or like

position in every state in the District of Columbia Guam Mariana Islands

American Samoa Virgin Islands and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico where I was

born and raised with supplement va services fill gaps and are integral to

the VA s mission to care for those who serve under eligible family members

second to va we are the largest provider of services to veterans in the country

our partnership with va is formalized through a memorandum of agreement that

has been signed by every secretary of va for the last six years say DBAs vary in

size and in reporting structure but we all have common core's

regarding to services and programs the list on the screen depicts a very small

sampling I say a very small sampling of the many services and critical programs

that are provided by the States from advocacy and claims development to

suicide awareness and Prevention women and minority veterans and financial

assistance you can see that this core benefits our model has many components

these services are provided through a continuum of federal state county and

city partnerships all with the goal of providing just-in-time assistance and

support collaborations with fellow national organizations and relationships

with corporate not-for-profit and faith-based organizations and individual

volunteers complete this circle because like VA the state cannot do it all when

this ecosystem is working in harmony the veterans paid space Titans and therefore

decreases the likelihood of veterans falling through the cracks in addition

our states are involved in two major grant programs with the federal VA in

collaboration with the National Association of state veterans homes

we operate 156 state veterans homes domiciliaries and adult day care

programs making this collective the largest provider of veterans long-term

care again in the country the veteran cemetery grant program enables states

and tribes to build cemeteries so that veterans and their eligible family

members have a final resting place we operate 111 state and tribal cemeteries

that supplement the 136 VA national shrines so I'm going to talk a little

bit about our organizational priorities because they reflect our veterans needs

and support the VA Secretary's emphasis on offering world-class service for the

customer the slide in the screen here we go

list our current priorities such as suicide awareness and prevention which

is something that is very important to all of us as as we have 22 veterans

committing suicide a day in this country we need to work harder to be able to

decrease that number military transition unemployment and then finally through

innovation and implementation of best practices we provide continuous

improvement as far as our association so that we can provide better services to

our veterans and their families now as the NASPA president this year I am

establishing and you focus for our association in addition to our core

priorities I am calling on my colleagues to focus on the families our families we

need to find and implement best practices that deal with their emotional

wellness and their economic empowerment the issues we're making unprecedented

investments on our veterans in the federal state local and philanthropic

spaces our success depends on many support systems primarily the immediate

family if the family is not emotionally financially and physically well the very

men may know reach his or her highest level of

functioning despite all our efforts the issues that offer our we're a very

veterans pts TBI justice involvement homelessness and suicide have a

devastating impact on our families and the community at large VA does not

provide mental health care for their families as part of its care line

because of eligibility standards that are set by Congress therefore this is

where the state network can help fill those gaps to be able to make the

difference for the veteran and the family this focus and collaboration will

bring great benefit to our veterans by strengthening the family unit and

contributing to their success in our communities and finally I would like

again to thank secretary woky for the opportunity to share with you the

services and value of our your State Department's of Veterans Affairs and

remember to call on us for the delivery of local services to our nation's heroes

thank you at this time we're gonna hear from Herman brewer president of the

County VA National Association of County Veterans Service officers thanks David

the National Association of County Veterans Service officers I'm excited to

have this opportunity to speak to you all today thank you to the secretary

thank you to the my fellow panelists the National Association of County Veterans

Service officers the history predates the Department of Veterans Affairs

advocacy that began after the Civil War veterans of the war would come home to

their communities and it was their friends and family that would see that

there was a need for help the role of the County veteran's service officer is

to act as the continued liaison for the service member who is separated from the

military will help them with their disability benefits survivor benefits

financial assistance transportation education burial benefits veteran

treatment courts the list goes on essentially we are your advocate

we're comprised of over 2,400 members 1,700 are accredited by the Department

of Veterans Affairs we have members in 30 states around the country and three

Native American tribes we are your neighbors your kids soccer coach you'll

see us at church at the grocery store at your bank will you'll see us at Veterans

Day and Memorial Day we're folks that you can trust right

there by partnering with our not-for-profit organizations other

government agencies organizations such as NASA and the Department of Veterans

Affairs we hope to work collectively to improve the lives of all who serve this

great nation we visited communities across the country and we found County

Veterans Service officers engaged partnering with the VA as well as their

local nonprofits day in and day out working creatively so that no one falls

through the cracks our members are the frontline our members are the ones who

are applying for the benefits for veterans and their families every day

assisting to get those benefits that can be so important to get them back on

their feet or help that surviving spouse stay in the home that they shared with

the veteran a strong partnership with the VA and with our members support we

can change lives of veterans across the country again I want to say thank you to

the secretary for this opportunity

at this time we're gonna hear from hurt continue on please I'm sorry this time

we're gonna hear from Anthony Wickham Joint Staff jae-won personnel programs

National Guard Bureau Dave I'd like to thank you and the VA for allowing me to

talk about my favorite subject our National Guardsmen and their families

there are about three hundred and forty-one thousand National Guardsmen

out there in your communities along with their families and together they come

out to about 1 million people spread across the United States in your cities

your villages farms across the nation supporting our national defense effort

there's about 25,000 Guardsmen right now deployed to such places as Afghanistan

and Djibouti in addition we have about now about 7,000 National Guardsmen still

helping our fellow citizens down in North Carolina South Carolina in the

southern part of Virginia we support the governor's we're a dispersed force that

are focused on the local level I just want to talk about a little bit about

the National Guard's we're American where the put my glasses on sorry

America's communities and our military we service we have service members and

families in almost every zip code ensuring the well-being of our soldiers

airmen and their families and employers is key to maintaining our part-time and

cost-effective force we've established through very hard lessons of the last 15

years of war and about 850,000 deployments internal network of support

that goes down to local level the National Guard supports the health and

well-being of our families through a network of accessible and responsive

professionals who provide training and support and referrals to all the

geographically dispersed family members just not Guardsmen in catchment areas or

in areas outside the catchment areas of active duty forces let me tell you

some of these assets our 54 state family program directors have been a link at

the state level that provide support to our military families especially when

disaster strikes they provide a support and clear messaging to our families

during our response to Hurricane Florence Hawaii's volcano activity and

California and Oregon wildfires just this year the state family program

directors have the pulse of the local initiatives and the state specific

programs they often are used to provide the current needs in the state and then

they push that down to our local level folks that are called Family Assistance

centers there's about 471 spread out across the United States in our armories

they're in unique location and they address more than 100 or 1 million

resource and referral inquiries and outreach last year also on the Air

National Guard side we have 91 Air National Guard Airmen and family

Raiden's program managers reaching close to about 200 12,000 service members and

their families just last year and we talked earlier I know we had other panel

members talk about survivors our survivor outreach specialists provide to

our survivors of the fallen throughout the nation and beyond catcher beyond the

catchment area of active duty installations support last year we

supported about 65% of the army survivors were being helped by our

National Guard assets out there in the States

we'll continue to place great emphasis on programs that prevent promote the

mental health and resiliency of our servicemembers and their families

where we work at the local level we have numerous state and local community

outreach forms for military and veterans including Illinois for example Illinois

joining forces Nevada's green zone initiative and

Minnesota is beyond yellow ribbon program all these initiatives we link in

with partnerships whether it be the county level or with our local VA

VHA or VBA assets both the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans

Benefits Administration personnel have briefed our deployers and Families on

literally hundreds of yellow ribbon events throughout the country in the

past 15 years so we've developed a very good working relationship with the

Veterans Administration since 2005 our transition assistance advisors have

stood at the forefront providing support advocacy in information to more than 3

million veterans and their families out there in the States I want to highlight

that our TAS our TAS have worked with the VA to measure the outcomes of our

our programs and last year just in fiscal year 17 transition assistance of

eyes errs impacted the lives over over 123

servicemembers and veterans with total va va che compensation GI bill education

benefits received by the Army National Guard members in fiscal year 17 going

over 1.9 billion and that's 1.9 billion with a B we would the way we link

everything together is through our joining community forces at our National

Guard level it pushes down to our state's and community links to find and

consolidate the best local resources we regularly participate in local and state

consuls and boards and working groups to strengthen our local military

communities because that's where we get our support it's at the local community

this includes participating in over 100 community veterans engagement boards

around the country and we also play a large role in the department defense

pilot building healthy military communities in seven states

this partnership regularly assists not only our National Guard members and

their families but also other local veterans for example finding our veteran

health support through the local VA hospital VA community-based outreach

clinics or vet centers for example an upcoming Veterans stand down in Madison

County Indiana he's being held at our National Guard

Armory in Anderson Indiana on October 12th we're also partnering with the

Veterans Health Administration readjustment counseling service to

incorporate Vet Center personnel to deploy its mobile vet centers to help

fill a critical need for remote National Guard personnel this National

Partnership is building on and expanding local relationships between the National

Guard units and the vet centers that we already have in place this important

initiative enhances the continuum of support for our servicemembers and their

families the vet centers provides a full spectrum of counseling service services

to include individual group marriage and family counseling to our eligible vets

which constitutes about 42% of the National Guard these services are

provided through the 300 vet centers that are out there in our communities

and they're 80 mobile mobile vet centers what will help that Center vans and the

Vet Center call center I just want to do some quick vignettes together we and the

members of the Tulsa Oklahoma mayor's veteran Advisory Council who's chaired

by Sandra Oxford at the VA Tulsa Vet Center manager the Tulsa was man mayor's

Vet Center visor II counsel helped over 100 has over 100 members who said on the

console and the purpose of this committee is to bring military members

and veterans ations and community together to have a direct line to the

mayor on issues consenting veterans and we have that throughout the nation and

so and either are part of those groups or our members or participate in those

groups on a quarterly or monthly basis we'd like to let you know once again

that we are in your communities we've developed a network of support through

15 years of of combat and are there to support the efforts of other agencies

that are helping our veterans throughout the nation thank you very much

next I'd like to introduce Steven Austin senior executive assistant chief of the

Army Reserve Office of the commander Army Reserve thank you Dave

secretary Wilkie fellow famil panel members ladies and gentlemen in our

viewing audience good afternoon and my thanks to secretary Wilkie for inviting

us to participate in this VA community town-hall event what a great way to

reach out to veterans and their families across America and to let them know what

we are doing to help them reenter or readjust to civilian life and what

programs and services are out there for veterans and their families the Army

Reserve is located in every state and five US territories as well as 30

countries across the globe and supporting soldiers and families is a

top Army Reserve priority and this includes veterans and their families

however because our forces are geographically dispersed rather than

centered on installations like the active army we use a different system to

connect soldiers and families to local organizations and community based

services Army Reserve family programs and the fort family outreach and support

center at Fort Bragg North Carolina provide a direct conduit to command and

community resources with comprehensive and confidential information assistance

and referrals for every aspect of military life but perhaps one of the

most difficult parts of a soldier service many of us have been there

whether active army or Army Reserve or other services comes with leaving the

service and figuring out how to translate military skills and experience

into a new civilian job that will continue to provide for their families

needs and financial security which is why in 2014 the Army Reserve launched

its private public partnership initiative or p3 the mission of p3 is

twofold first it's a partnership between the

private sector and the Army Reserve that provides businesses with highly skilled

and educated employees they need to succeed in a competitive marketplace in

return for real-world civilian experience that strengthens soldiers

core military capabilities and second it's a way through an extensive network

of partners that includes for-profit nonprofit and academic institutions to

help veterans and family members find jobs and access the training

credentialing and licensing opportunities they need to succeed in

the private sector the p3 team includes army reserve specialists Army Reserve

specialists located Army Reserve facilities across the United States

dedicated to providing assistance with civilian employment opportunities resume

development interview preparation how to use social media and employment websites

access to exclusive career opportunities and hiring events as well as career

advancement support and we also have transition readiness liaisons who assist

veterans and families transitioning from active duty to civilian life with

employment education and resource opportunities they conduct warm handoffs

to army readiness specialists nationwide to enable continued p3 support in each

soldier's destination wherever they're going in the United States upon

transition relocation and leverage p3 partnerships capabilities and resources

to disseminate opportunities through social media outlets hiring events

briefings and individual case management clearly employers are a vital part of

our effort to build and sustain a strong Army Reserve and national defense in

addition to its focus on employment and professional development p3 also

collaborates with organizations that focus on physical mental emotional

spiritual financial and family wellness groups like give an hour which is

dedicated to meeting the mental health needs of soldiers veterans and Families

another the Mission Continues that empowers veterans adjusting to the home

find new missions another team red white and blue that organizes physical fitness

activities for veterans and family members heroes care that provides a

nationwide support network available before during and after deployment to

post 9/11 soldiers veterans and Families

second excuse me got it got to turn the page

okay the veterans career transition program through the Syracuse Institute

for veterans and military families that offers a veteran's career transition

program and free online certification prep and a professional training course

for post 9/11 veterans and spouses the Army Reserve also partners with the US

Chamber of Commerce foundations Hiring Our Heroes program to find jobs for

soldiers transitioning to civilian life and groups like LPL Financial a leader

in the financial advice industry and a trusted source of independent advice in

local communities to give you just one quick example of how the Army Reserve p3

program helps veterans a p3 army readiness specialist I mentioned there

throughout the country who covers Minnesota recently helped a local Army

Reserve veteran who was in dire need of finding employment after a potential

career opportunity was unexpectedly withdrawn

the specialist assisted the vet with resume development referred him to local

career outreach events and connected him with p3 partner organizations within 30

days the veteran received two job offers with salaries nearly twice the amount of

the initial opportunity that fell through after carefully reviewing both

offers he accept accepted a position as a service manager with that I think my

time is up if you'd like to learn more about the Army Reserves p3 program

please visit our webpage at

www.minettis.com in and I've had to kind of hobble this one together a lot of the

questions has similar themes how are state county and federal VA working

together to meet the needs of veterans so we don't work in stovepipes what is

the relationship between federal state and county VA s so at the county level

you know as I said in my introduction that we work to help veterans who are

filing disability benefits but then because we are engrained in the

community we take responsibility to help hand that veteran off to other agencies

so what we've seen as we've traveled around to see what that what is working

as best practices in certain communities we see areas that are coming together

where they're actually partnering with VA and partnering with State Department

of Veterans Affairs to bring together whether it is through a three-day

weekend like what we saw happen in Cleveland Ohio

just a few weeks ago where they brought in members from the regional office as

well as members from the Healthcare Administration as well as many other

not-for-profit agencies like the Red Cross where they were able to work

together they were able to take action on roughly 230 disability claims they

saw nine hundred and fifty veterans in a three-day period in that experience so

that's just one small example of how county and state are working together

but there's many many other examples it's going to vary from state to state

you know certain state legislatures work differently than others so the way that

they're going to partner down to the county level may be different I know

that in the state of Ohio we have financial assistance programs I know

that in in the state of Indiana they have various educational benefits so

it's going to vary from state to state and I think that Alfea may be able to

add something to this as well sure and from the state perspective is a

continuum of services the state may be able to do some some services the county

is were a lot of the resources we cite when it comes to our state's and

therefore they have a lot of the financial flexibility and capacity to be

able to augment services and the communication between the state the

county and the service officers is critical because then we're able to

deploy smartly our resources and not duplicate efforts so it's an incredibly

symbiotic relationship in which the veteran actually wins next question I

have is going to go to the other side of the house to the National Guard and Army

Reserve and this question went to the Army Reserve but I think it's applicable

to the National Guard as well is the Army Reserve and National Guard do

anything to help their soldiers post-transition

oh absolutely I mean that that was that's what I'm trying to convey that

the p3 program is one of the focuses is Army Reserve Soldiers and actually will

help anybody we've helped National Guard Navy doesn't matter what the service is

but it's also after they transitioned that the p3 program continues to help

we're that's part of their mattress not just active soldiers but but soldiers

for life in a National Guard very similar to the the way the Army Reserve

works we have assets that are out there especially our Family Assistance centers

and our state family program directors and the transition Assistance advisors

that help those service members transition from active duty status to

the normal getting back into their jobs getting back into the communities and

becoming productive members of those communities from the get-go this one I

think is for me you keep on saying Seva 'b or cv can you tell us again what does

that stand for and for those have been asking we've had several questions it is

community veteran engagement board CVE be next question I think this also

applies to the National Guard and Army Reserve together based on the

geographical distances between units what are you doing to support our

families we are for the past 15 years what we've relied to on for our families

is the local communities and whether it be through the local Health and Human

Services through nonprofits and through other organizations that are in the

counties we we have had to just through hard lessons learned over the years

establish those links with those local assets to solve the problems that come

up just in everyday life and being the chat the challenges of being a military

family so I would totally agree with Tony if the family is not happy the

soldier is not happy so we also in addition to taking care of the soldier

we need to take care of the family and in doing that it's just like Tony said

it's partnering with those via so voluntary organizations the county state

governments that are partners in the private industry it

I mean this is a team sport so it's partnering with all of those individuals

to help soldiers our army emergency relief you know for instance with

Hurricane Florence and whenever we have emergencies like that there are multiple

organizations out there and we're not just focused on we will not turn around

way a spouse that's looking for employment they come to the p3 program

we will help them out if I can so in my community we have a National Guard

training center there was an incident on a training weekend where a GSA vehicle

carrying Guard members had an accident the it was training weekend so these

members were not from the area their family members then had to come to the

area the Guard commander there at the post

notified our offices we coordinated with local not-for-profits to get them hotel

rooms that they could stay we also partnered with them to get them you know

necessities for their travels and so forth so it's it like these gentlemen

said it's a partnership all around and it's about relationships knowing

beforehand before that that incident happens on who to call and hewed contact

that's what makes it successful is the relationships we build over time this is

the first time I've heard about County and State Service officers do you work

for the federal government if not how do I find out what counties the state

benefits are available is there a list by state or VSOs

so actually if you go to our website and a CBS OH dot o-r-g you'd be able to find

if there is a County veteran's service officer that's near you if not you'd

also be linked to the State Department of Veterans Affairs but the county

veteran's service officer is right there at home like I said in my intro we are

the ones at Veterans Day with you or they're at Memorial Day and we are your

neighbors so we are there as accredited representatives like affiliate

recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs

to fully help you through the process of a disability claim through burial

benefits through other types of benefits and you'd want to reach out to your

local community to find out what types of benefits could be available to you

because they will vary from state to state and you may find a robust set of

benefits in your area in which case you'd be in great shape if not you'd

probably want to reach out to your legislators to find out why that's the

case and let me let me add to that please because the volume of work that

needs to be done and the benefits that are yet to be tapped especially by our

elder veterans who have no idea that they're eligible for benefits is such

that it takes a larger village to be able to provide the services so in

addition to the County Veterans Service officer's service organizations like the

American Legion and VFW mo pH and others do have accredited service officers to

make sure that this ecosystem of benefits you know and services can be

accessed you know through a lot of different working partners because the

volume of work is large and if more veterans truly access their benefits and

apply for what they earn they will be able this system is going to be able to

work for them next questions come in probably right back at you Herman Alfie

can State VSOs and I'm gonna add County in there as well can state and county

VSOs help with my appeals process absolutely and if there are members of

ours we we have a system in place to assist in the appeals process the system

is in place to help from the very beginning all the way until the end so

yeah absolutely the members are accredited through cross accreditation

with many recognizable national veteran's service organizations such as

the disabled american veterans but in in many areas we could be accredited by the

state departments such as with the state of washington but there's a number of

different ways that we would be able to help in that process again you'd want to

check out the website to be able to find that count

veteran's service officer nearest you

our state and county offices also working on customer service well

absolutely and as a matter of fact yesterday in Washington State there was

a major training for as many of our service officers from all organizations

including the State Department of Veterans Affairs were one of the areas

that is has been receiving little attention it's being able to serve LGBTQ

veterans it's a segment of our population that deserves services that

are sensitive to you know to them to their needs and therefore the customer

service has been lacking in that particular area and therefore that's one

of the areas that we have been focusing to make sure that all veterans are

served in a way that is going to be consistent with the sensitivity that is

required and therefore improve the customer service to them to add what

Alfie is saying the the the difficulty in it is a large task to maintain that

consistency across the country when we're reaching out into some of the most

remote areas including you know some Navy a Native American tribes that where

we also have representatives at but our organization provides training annually

to the members that met that training helps to provide that consistency and

and make sure that the veterans are getting the proper service that they

deserve you know so if you're if you're checking on your benefits and you're

reaching out to your local counties if they're members of ours and there is an

issue you you can contact us through our website switch them back across the

table Thanks god bless you for the National Guard's help in Puerto Rico and

I've gotten several from the Carolinas as well my regard question however

regards how does the VA and National Guard work as partners again Thanks

we've worked as I mentioned a little bit earlier we've been working with VA in

detail since about 2004 as part of our Yellow Ribbon reintegration program from

that we've built a pretty good base working with the VA our transition

assistance advisors have been linking in with our both our Veterans Health

Administration our Veterans Benefits Administration personnel locally at the

local level to coordinate benefits and to make sure that any Guardsman or any

military member or veteran that's out there is able to get the benefits that

they've earned okay so so actually an all pile-on the same is true with the

Army Reserve with the Yellow Ribbon Program with the other programs that the

VA has to support the transition so if a soldier that's transitioning out goes to

a transition point there is service people there there's private people are

our veterans associations and the VA is there so it's again I can't emphasize

how much it's a team sport here none of us do it by ourselves none of us do it

by ourselves it really does take as you say a larger community a larger village

and VA can't do it alone I got an interesting question can you volunteer

to work at a County Service office and I'll put that to the state as well okay

and if so how yeah so it's going to depend upon the

the county and typically I know that most counties work close closely with

the the VA voluntary services in their area so there may not be spots in

specific counties some counties actually operate on a part-time basis so you'd

want to check with your local county to find out if there is a need some

counties utilize volunteers to to transport veterans from their area to

save vetal centers and so forth but yeah there are there are plenty of

opportunities and typically someone in the county office will know where those

volunteers are needed one of the things that we find in some

rural communities is that there is a need for for burial services so if you

are a veteran that that is part of a Veterans organization you can check to

see if there's an honor guard that that goes out to honor service members for

their burials and we need peer mentors we need a lot of our veterans who had

the opportunity of being able to dedicate a little bit of time to be able

to make sure that they can bring home many of their veterans who are yet to

come home if you're ready to volunteer that means that you've reached a place

in your life well you're ready to give and there are others who need to be able

to get that edging to be able to to bring them back and we will take

volunteers anything anytime because there's so much work that needs to be

done when it comes to the areas of outreach making people a little bit

dangerous to be able to know enough to refer somebody to a professional service

officer so yes the opportunities abound

the next question I have can I go to a County VSO to help get benefits or do I

have to go to the VBA now that's actually what we're there for we are

there to help in the application process whether that is the healthcare benefits

the education benefits the disability benefits there you know and that's that

that's the thing that it's going to take a County veteran's service officer to

introduce you to all of those different benefits because the one thing that you

will find is that there are many benefits that veterans are eligible for

and some do not come from the Department of Veterans Affairs so if you're only

looking at the VA you may not be finding all of the benefits that are available

to you you know state states have their own benefits local governments have

their own benefits so reach out to that County veteran's service officer

from the very beginning and I set it in my intro and and really you know as a

formal net former National Guardsman the way that I view our role is that unit

administrator we are the person that we are able to turn to you know the one

that I ran to on a drill weekend to change dependency information we are

that person now you know so absolutely you'd want to reach out to find out the

number of different benefits that are - outstanding with all the talk of

customer experience and customer service is USA r and ng National Guard working

to improve veterans how are you working to improve veterans experience and

customer service for veterans their families in their own communities so so

actually we track this the what we would call success you know it for instance

getting a job transitioning and and it's not I'm not tracking specifically

veterans on tracking all the entire cohort you know our our current Army

Reserve Soldiers anybody else National Guard soldiers that are out there so we

we have so many people out doing our p3 program and there has to be a return on

that investment so that's what we're looking at so are those people doing

what they need to do if they are not and it's individually based then you know do

I need to find somebody else do they need more help do they need more

assistance do they need more training so I can tell you that we are tracking that

very carefully and try and trying to improve the numbers you know you know

what's the percentage of soldiers that we that are getting jobs so I'll kind of

leave it at that Tony and let you pile on all right I will pile on correct and

also we're we're tracking with our Family Assistance centers with our

transition assistance advisors helping vets that come in and it's it's

basically no wrong door wherever they come into our system whether it's

through the Family Assistance centers through our just our National Guard

Armory readiness NCOs or through our transition Assistance advisors we're

pointing to the right place to track to get them into the system to get them the

resources they need and then we have tracking mechanisms to track them along

putting together case Anish meant to help them get their

assets that they need the next one's more of a statement than a question and

I appreciate it and from the email looks like the person's a nurse excellent for

all veterans to know this information thank you very much for the effort like

I said should the VA website be into all VA sectors including the county and the

state sites please acknowledge all the veterans that need to be involved

she ends with saying or he ends with saying we're all in this together as we

were in service and in war thank you again very much for having that courage

to be out here the next question can I get a VA ID card

if I was the National Guard and I'll add that to the Army Reserve as well and if

you can't answer that when I do know the answer so so it's kind of a little bit

of a trick question so the question was a VA ID card affirmative okay so the VA

a ID card is actually a health care card so it's not actually a VA ID card but

what you will find and now the VA does have the new ID card that that was

released last year I know that there's that some individuals have been able to

get that you'll also find that some states have issued ID cards as well as

counties have issued veteran's ID cards if you are a guardsman or reservist in

some counties you'll be able to obtain one just by producing a copy of a 2-14

showing that you served honorably through your training period so if there

are a number of different outlets to be able to obtain that ID card if in fact

you're not eligible for a VA ID card yes and I just want to expand upon that a

little bit getting a little bit outside the boundaries of the question but if

you're an active duty service member in a remote location you can go and your

need a ID card for a new family member a new baby or maybe your spouse's ID card

is about to expire you don't have to go all the way to an active duty post you

can go to either National Guard Armory or a US Army Reserve Armory we have

we're in the deers that we have deer system stations that can get you those

ID cards and I'd like to add if I can that if you are the National Guard the

VA does have a generic it does not give you health benefits of generic ID card

and that ID card can be given with you turn in a dd-214 and it's found on vets

gov and if you're in the National Guard if you have an NG B form 22 that is

sufficient information and also if your Army Reserve a certificate of discharge

you submit those and shortly thereafter you should be able to get a a VA ID card

next question we've heard a lot about how the National Guard reaches out to

communities and this also would go for the Army Reserves how can I find out

more to help my local soldiers is the National Guard and/or Army Reserve part

of the community engagement board and how do I find out more yes they are and

where you can find out more the people who really go to the the links are

either if you're in the Air National Guard

you go to your airmen and Family Program Raina's program manager right there at

the wing or if you're in the Army Army National Guard you go to your family

Assistance Center Family Assistance Center and there there's about 400 of

those mostly at the battalion level locations but they're spread out all

over the place and that's where you go for your referrals to assistance

yeah and for the Army Reserve similar I mentioned this early on on the family

side fort family so and you know if you type it in the internet and it'll come

up for family and it same thing that Tony's talking about that will send you

to the right you can go where you need to go in order to pursue that so this is

a generic question I've gotten a lot about town halls or outreach programs so

I'm gonna add to State County National Guard or Army Reserve have town halls

and how do I find out about your town halls or other similar forums okay so

the answer is yes we conduct our halls across the nation and in

for example we just did one in Washington State where is called

commander Scholl and that brings a lot of the service organizations and it's

open to the public to be able to discuss issues get information and be able to

get feedback from the community to ensure that again we keep the finger on

the pulse of what the needs of the veterans are and can get agile regarding

being able to answer those needs so actually they're there the Department of

Veterans Affairs has been taking town halls on the road whether they come from

regional offices or from local medical centers I know that in my community some

of the town halls have taken place in inside veterans organizations inside

their halls they've also taken place inside some of the community-based

outpatient clinics so they're our town halls that you may find in your area if

you do have a local VA clinic or you have a local County veteran's office

you'd want to check with them typically that County veteran's office will be

attending local veterans organization meetings monthly so you'd want to check

with them but yeah town halls are a fairly regular event within our

community within the states and within the counties as well because the

veterans governor's Advisory Committee will have my head when I get home if I

don't say something because they conduct with the help of our agency six town

halls across the state focus on rural communities to make sure that we also

get information on what's going on and the needs of rural communities which is

a whole different ballgame from when it comes to you know the communities as a

whole so I just wanted to make sure that I interjected that otherwise I will not

be able to go back home anything from the any town halls or other community

forums that the reserve for the National Guard advance so from a reserve

perspective I would say it's primarily kind of individual unit based locally

that's not something that we control at the at the national level or that I'm

really tracking I mean this is this is leadership this is

powering commanders but every time one of our partners has some sort of

townhall then typically we will participate there there are other ones

eSGR employer support to the garden reserve the Chamber of Commerce they're

hiring fairs we will have people there participating have a booth if need be

but definitely have people there to facilitate whatever we can and the guard

in the guard once again we've got 54 little laboratories out there that are

working with their communities in the states and territories for for these

outreach events and if you want to know what's local I highly recommend you

contact a Family Assistance Center specialists we're on our joint service

support website or you can just google the National Guard your local National

Guard and contact them from there thank you very much we only have a few moments

left I have one comment thank you very much for getting the work work out I'm

not going to name the organization but I work for a private nonprofit that helps

veterans thank you so much again next question was when are we going to do

this again and I can't tell you that right now but we will publish that as

early as we can it's our intent to do with several times this year and then

I'm gonna take a quick moment to say final comments across the room we only

have a few moments but any summation comments you'd like to make so I just

like to say that I look forward to continuing the partnership that our

organization has with the VA and with the National Association of state

directors and look forward to future partnerships with with NGB and US Army

Reserve to be able to reach into the communities those as Alfie brought up

those rural communities where there there aren't as many resources available

but to be able to reach out there and help those individuals that are in need

we know that the need is there and were there to serve that and I would like to

say it takes a village to serve a vet and his or her family and you need to

know who your state director of veterans are

fairs are and what your State Department of Veterans Affairs does because it is a

force multiplier to the work that the VA does so get to know us because we want

to be able to serve you so I would just pile on that this is a partnership none

of us can do it by ourselves and we all have different capabilities and

particularly on the actinide we are focused on soldiers but that extends for

a soldier for life once you're a soldier you come in we'll take care of you and I

also agree with Tony this is relationships so you know we developed

the relationships at the top and they bubble down to the lowest level we're

out in your communities if you need help go see us see our family assistance

centers or go see the community the county your county reps and once again

it's all about its is constantly about relationship building and strengthening

those ties and you constantly got to re reattach those or revisit those to

better serve our veterans thank you

thank you so much everyone for being part of the first of several virtual

community town halls that we hope to have this fiscal year we want to partner

with you and we will need local communities service providers advocate

VSO state and county federal non-federal agencies to work with us to bridge gaps

and services solve challenges in solving challenges at the local level thank you

for your service your sacrifice and what you do every day for veterans we

appreciate the families caregivers and survivors who are able to join us we

know we cannot do it without you thank you