From: Evan McMorris-Santoro [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, March 13, 2015 02:04 PM
To: Allen, Jessica
Subject: travel print pool report 16: POTUS at VA
At 1:17 PM MT, pool was led into the Phoenix VA hospital where POTUS, VA officials, veterans and a bipartisan group of lawmakers had been meeting about persistent problems at the VA and how to fix them. (List of attendees is below.) POTUS summarized the meeting in about seven minutes of remarks.
Check all quotes against transcript.
“We all know that there have been significant problems at this facility, that the kind of cooking the books and the unwillingness to face up to the fact… went on too long," POTUS began. He said new VA leadership has begun "chipping away at those problems."
“We’ve brought in a new team that has been tackling these issues to make sure that wait times for scheduling, access to providers is greatly improved,” the president said in remarks after the closed-door meeting. “But what we know is there is still more work to do.”
"this discussion allowed us to hone in on some problems that continue to crop up and as a consequence will allow us to face," he said.
The president promised to make veteran's more aware of the private sector care options available to them after the last VA funding compromise in Congress.
"There’s been some concerns expressed about whether that information is getting out to veterans as effectively as it should, there are some specific issues of implementation that Sen McCain, Sen. Flake and…all the members of Congress here described. What I’ve committed to is making sure that we implement the CHOICE act promptly and effectively and that some of the concerns that have been raised are addressed."
Concerns that have revolved around suicide prevention
“This has been an area that there’s been great bipartisan support on, but there’s still more to do.”
His big chunk on the quality of care at the VA vs "a few bad apples"
"Trust is one of those things that you lose real quick and then it takes some time to build,” Mr. Obama said. “The good news is that there are outstanding folks here at this V.A. and all the V.A.’s across the country who are deserving of trust.”
"Last point i would make, although we spent a lot of time talking about areas that need improvement, we are very pleased that we’ve got an outstanding former CEO from the private sector as well as a veteran in Joe Robles who is heading up our advisory committee. Although we know that more problems will crop up, because that’s inevitable in an organization this large, every veteran who i talked to here emphasized that when it came to the actual care people were receiving once in the system, it was outstanding. That there were great doctors, great nurses and a great staff who cared deeply about our veterans. Obviously a lot of those doctors and staff are veterans themselves. And so there are systems that have to be fixed, there’s management that has to continue to drive a renewed sense of purpose at the VA but we can’t ignore that every single day the VA is doing some outstanding work to provide care to our veterans. And that’s not, I think, spin. That’s something that we heard correctly from a lot of veterans around this table.
Just the fact that there have been a few bad apples, mistakes that have been made, systems that aren’t designed to get the job done, i don’t want that to detract from the outstanding work being done by a lot of people inside this organization."
attendees (from the WH):
President Obama’s roundtable discussion at the Phoenix VA Medical Center included veteran patients and the following attendees:
Department of Veterans Affairs:
Bob McDonald, Secretary
Sloan Gibson, Deputy Secretary
Carolyn Clancy, Interim Under Secretary for Health
Kathleen Fogarty, Director, VA Southwest Healthcare Network (VISN 18)
Glen Grippen, Interim Director, Phoenix VA Healthcare System
Monique Rivers, Nurse
Cynthia Schihl, Nurse
Kristy Straits-Troster, Mental Health Practitioner
Romeo Wilson, Scheduler
Louis Curry, Labor Representative
Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs):
Cara Campbell, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
Ronald Cox, Disabled Veterans of America
Angel Juarez, American Legion
Raymond Thomas, Veterans of Foreign Wars
Members of Congress:
Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ)
Representative Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ)
Representative Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)
Robert Barnes, Interim Director, Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services
Josue Robles, Former CEO, USAA
Kristie Canegallo, White House Deputy Chief of Staff
BuzzFeed News White House Reporter