Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald says his department has the authorization and the budget to fill "tens of thousands" of new jobs but he is worried about filling the positions.
In the wake of the scandal that damaged the VA's reputation, McDonald says he will utilize the media and members of Congress as he tries to staff the organization.
"We have the [congressional] authorization for positions, the issue now is we have to find the people," McDonald said in a Defense One
McDonald added that he has asked Florida Republican Rep. Jeff Miller and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, the chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs committees, to join him on recruiting trips to medical schools and other places. The VA is looking for doctors, nurses, and clinicians.
President Barack Obama picked McDonald
to lead the VA in July, and he was confirmed last month. The department was plagued by a scandal that involved long waiting times for patients and mismanagement that resulted in as many as 40 deaths
while veterans waited to see a doctor.
After spending his first few weeks on the job visiting VA hospitals across the country, McDonald announced a 90-day plan
on Monday that he says will begin repairing the damage to his agency caused by the scandal. His plan includes a hiring spree, creating a climate in which all employees can "be a whistleblower," and updating the VA's 14 websites veterans use for various services.
At the end of July, Congress passed a reform bill
that would lay the groundwork for fixing the VA's problems. As part of the bill, 27 new VA medical facilities will be opened and care for veterans at non-VA facilities will be expanded.
McDonald said Monday he will hold regular meetings to make sure actions that result from the bill's passage stay on track.
McDonald also wants the VA to become more transparent and more accountable.
"Accountability is more than just personnel actions; we must focus on sustainable accountability," he said, according to Defense One. "In that same spirit, we need to do a better job of training our leaders, flattening our hierarchical cultures, encouraging innovation and collaboration from the bottom. And we must realistically rate the performance of employees — everybody can’t possibly be rated the best."
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