The deputy secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs announced Friday a collaboration with the Augusta-based veteran care organization America’s Warrior Partnership that he said will help advance the agency’s new strategy for improving patient care.
During a visit to Augusta, Sloan Gibson said the VA must improve its partnerships with nonprofit community-based groups and more effectively collaborate with agencies that can address veterans’ health care, housing and employment needs.
“We can’t do it on our own. We don’t have it all figured out and we need help,” he said at a news conference.
Gibson delivered the keynote address at the second annual Warrior Community Integration Symposium, a two-day event bringing together nonprofits across the nation to discuss care for military veterans. America’s Warrior Partnership, the national arm of the Augusta Warrior Project, put on the symposium.
The collaboration aligns with the “myVA” initiative that seeks to reform the customer service experience and make it easier for veterans to get the care they need, Gibson said. The initiative was a response to lapses in patient care that included long wait times for appointments that in some cases, including at least three at Augusta’s Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, contributed to a patient’s death.
Gibson, who visited the Augusta VA’s spinal cord injury unit and the Georgia War Veterans Nursing Home, said additional
clinical staff, extended hours and new leadership under Augusta VA Director Maria Andrews have improved patient care at the facility.
“I know there’s still work to do there,” he said. “I think we’ve got the right team and I think we’ve got the right leader. I expect they are going to be a very collaborative partner here.”
Relationships with nonprofits such as America’s Warrior Partnership are not unprecedented, Gibson said, but they have not always been successful or beneficial for veterans.
“We actually have some kind of relationship with tens of thousands of nonprofit organizations across the country. I would tell you those operate with varying degrees of success,” he said. “The VA, historically, has probably not had collaboration as one of its core competencies. That’s one of the things we’re trying to change in this.”
Gibson said efforts with America’s Warrior Partnership will be more strategic than past collaborations to identify veterans’ needs. The VA and the nonprofit will meet regularly to share information, resources and training opportunities; educate the public about
programs; and identify veterans that need help.
Gibson said veteran homelessness, career transition and mental health care are three areas the VA cannot address without help from outside groups.