WASHINGTON — Congress has confirmed a new secretary and sent billions of dollars into the coffers of the Department of Veterans Affairs, but after months of scandals, what would success look like?
There are some obvious issues veterans advocates want to see addressed: the need for doctors and benefits adjudicators to get rid of the wait lists; the time it takes for a veteran to get care; monitoring of veterans facing mental health issues because 22 a day are killing themselves.
Just as importantly, advocates say, VA must change its culture. They don't want to hear that veterans were sent home after appealing for help at a VA clinic for help dealing with suicidal thoughts.
They say incoming VA chief Robert McDonald must change biases, attitudes, goals, budgets, management and expectations in a behemoth born in 1930.
Here are seven things at the top of the to-do list:
1. Fill in the blanks: Phillip Carter, senior fellow and counsel at the Center for a New American Security, said VA is short several senior positions, including the undersecretary of Health, the chairman of the Board of Veterans' Appeals and the assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs. Constance Tobias was nominated for the Board of Veterans' Appeals in January 2012 — two-and-a-half years ago.