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VFW Magazine October 2017 : Page 23

At VFW’s 118th National Convention in New Orleans, VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin headlined the speakers. He offered VFW members a look at his plans for VA health care. By The Editors Photos by Bob Knudsen more efficiently to treat war wounds such as PTSD, traumatic brain injury and amputations. He added that with the recent passage of the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 , VA can now rid itself of “bad actors” whenever necessary. Since January, Shulkin said, 700 VA employees have been fired, suspended or demoted. “We are establishing a new culture at VA,” he said, “one in which employees believe it is an honor to serve veterans. Those employees who have lost their values will no longer be a part of VA.” Shulkin also hopes to improve cooperation with DoD’s medical system. In addressing priority No. 5, Shulkin called suicide an “epi-demic public health crisis.” He noted that VA’s Veterans Crisis Line has been improved so that the “rollover rate” dropped from 30 percent to less than 1 percent. Shulkin said vets are overwhelmingly less likely to commit suicide if they are receiving VA care. He also announced that veterans who have received other-than-honorable discharg-es can access VA mental health care help. “We need to work closer to make sure we are doing every-thing we can to combat suicide,” he said. “Identifying those who are most at risk is crucial.” Shulkin also touted VA’s Housing First program, which is committed to ending veterans homelessness. As the name suggests, the program first finds a veteran permanent hous-ing and then follows that with services based on the individ-ual’s needs and preferences. He reiterated the need for an “integrated” health care sys-tem. “The President and I agree that complete privatization is the wrong path,” Shulkin said. “But we do need to give veter-ans more choices.” OCTOBER 2017   • WWW.VFW.ORG • 23

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