New Veterans Administration secretary pushes for changes

The new Veterans Administration secretary and legislation in congress aims to improve services for American veterans.

Some of the changes include making medical records available electronically and legislation changing civil service protections for VA hospital employees, including higher ups.

Eight-year Marine veteran Ben Rangel came to the Dallas VA after surgery following the blast that put him out of the military.

“I had just had surgery on my feet and my shoulder, so when I told the VA that I needed some physical therapy they told me I had to wait 8 months because that was the nearest appointment they had here at the Dallas facility,” Rangel said.

The new VA secretary hopes electronic record keeping will better help vets get help sooner.

“Having an electronic health record that can follow a veteran during the course of his health and treatment is one of the most important things I believe you can do to ensure the safety and the health and well-being of a veteran,” said VA Secretary David Shulkin.

Military lawyer Patrick McLain served in the Marines and is a former military judge advocating for vets and active duty personnel.

“We have a lot of veterans who are homeless have mental health issues and getting reliable backgrounds from them is not always possible,” McLain said. “You need those medical records to give them proper treatment.”

Vets also say they will be helped by congress passing the VA Accountability and Whistleblowers Act that would: make it easier to fire bad employees, take bonuses from employees guilty of misconduct, reduce pensions of employees convicted of a felony and increase protection for whistleblowers.

But the hospitals may not get better right away even with new laws and technology.

“Moving anything in the federal government is like turning a battleship so if we don’t start now we'll never see improvement and it will only get worse,” McLain said.

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