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VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Working to Better Serve Valley Veterans

3 years 7 months 1 week ago Thursday, March 16 2017 Mar 16, 2017 March 16, 2017 9:32 PM March 16, 2017 in News

HARLINGEN - A government watchdog group placed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a high risk agency for a second time.

The VA has been under fire for the past few years for not meeting the need of veterans across the country.

The VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System said they’re taking the necessary steps to meet the needs of Rio Grande Valley veterans.

Veteran Timothy Kelley said he relies on the Valley’s only veteran healthcare system.

“I’ve had several surgeries on my back, which is the reason I’m in the wheelchair,” he said.

Kelley said he needs special accommodations to get to his appointments.

“I told them I had issues with transportation. I’m by myself. I have no reliable transportation and I’ve been told they do help veterans with transportation,” he said.

The veteran said it took more than a year to have a bus from the VA drive him to and from his appointments.

“We pride ourselves in terms of the types of services. We provide our veterans and we also pride ourselves in terms of where we’re headed as an organization,” VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend associate director Homero Martinez said.

In addition, Martinez said they’re trying to improve their core services overall.

“We look at certain functions that we’re currently doing now… We actually also integrate certain partnerships and focus on other programs, such as the CHOICE program, telemedicine and working with other partners in our community,” he said.

The associate director said these changes allow them to give veterans more access. Dr. Jennifer Wood with the VA agency said more and more veterans are getting the care they need.

“We’ve seen improvements in things such as wait times, as well as the percentage of veterans receiving timely mental health care. In fact, over the past fiscal year, our data shows that 99 percent – and in some cases 100 percent – of veterans are receiving the care in a timely manner,” she said.

Martinez and Dr. Wood said their mission is to make sure veterans’ needs are being met. They also said they’re trying to improve their transparency.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office placed the VA on their high-risk list this year. They are concerned over the agency’s timeliness, quality and safety of veterans’ health care.

After the VA was placed on high risk in 2015, the GAO said it only met two of the five goals they were given to improve their overall performance.

The Texas Valley Coastal Bend said they’ve been working hard to improve their care.

“As with any organization, you’re always going to have the good and the bad… The key for us is continuously to improve on those good things and to listen to our veterans, their voice and their opinions, and to deliver on those promises that we’ve made to our veterans,” Martinez said.

The GAO gave the agency more than 100 recommendations in an effort to improve its service. VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin sent the following statement in regards to the request:

“VA has been working hard to function as an integrated enterprise, and I will continue to build upon the progress we’ve made since 2015 and accelerate the changes required to meet all of GAO’s criteria for removal from the High-Risk List.

This work takes commitment and infinite resolve. Together with our partners in Congress, GAO, and our dedicated workforce, we will make steady and irrefutable progress to modernize VA.

We will implement a plan that directly addresses these risks by building on the progress we have already made through MyVA transformation. We will continue to transform Departments culture, processes and capabilities so the VA becomes a 21st century, customer-focused, Veteran-centric organization”

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