Paralyzed Veterans of America Executive Director Corrects the Record on Support for VA Secretary in the Trump Administration
Despite Paralyzed Veterans of America’s consistent position as an apolitical organization, it is being either falsely or mistakenly reported by some news outlets that Paralyzed Veterans of America supports Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald's continued tenure under President-elect Donald Trump's Administration. While we acknowledge the progress Secretary McDonald has made in addressing serious longstanding issues within VA, which has earned him a groundswell of support among many veteran service organizations, at no point in time was Paralyzed Veterans of America on record as one of them.
There are valid reasons for this, and none of them are political. Our organization represents the nearly 60,000 veterans in this country who live with some of the most serious injuries and disabilities one can experience. It is the reason we have staunchly defended the preservation and expansion of specialized services within VA that have no private sector alternative. Our organization is the only one that conducts detailed quality surveys at all 24 VA spinal cord injury & disorder (SCI/D) centers, and hundreds of VA outpatient clinics in the U.S. and U.S. territories annually. We do so because our members rely on specialized VA care in greater numbers than virtually any other veteran service organization. So we are obligated to stare into the face of problems that persist in the VA healthcare system, while appreciating those aspects that continue to make it an unrivaled model of effective care for paralyzed veterans.
Those problems include continued understaffing at SCI/D centers and clinics that has resulted in nurse and clinical staff burnout and turnover across the system. The failure to update critical directives that outline the standard of care has resulted in inconsistent standards and routine disregard for VA policy. Limited access for paralyzed veterans who need care has made them virtually invisible to VA because artificially capped inpatient SCI/D bed and staff capacities have become the norm. Lastly, a failure to provide steady, capable leadership at the top tier of the SCI/D service line would have signaled a serious effort to tackle all of these issues but was absent for the last several years.
Paralyzed Veterans of America made our concerns known to the Under Secretary for Health, Dr. David Shulkin, who was selected by Secretary McDonald. Our interest is in making a difference by provoking change, not making headlines, so we worked with VA despite a litany of setbacks and frustration. Now, we are being asked to make a decision that involves supporting an administration with a number of legitimate successes to claim, such as increased access to care in other areas and a growing emphasis within VA on cultivating a more veteran-centric environment. But this same administration has left behind many of the most severely disabled veterans in need of specialized services by failing to address the aforementioned problems that need immediate resolution.
It is for that reason, and in speaking for those veterans who would have no voice but for Paralyzed Veterans of America, we must correct the record. We have not put our name on the list of veterans’ organizations who insist that President-elect Trump select Robert McDonald as his VA Secretary. We are committed to working with whomever Mr. Trump ultimately selects, and we will demand results of that individual. Accordingly, we will hold whomever is chosen to lead VA during the next administration fully responsible for ensuring our nation's paralyzed veterans have access to the best quality specialized health care for all the veterans we represent. While the nation focuses on the politics, we will work to ensure veterans are not left behind.
Article Credit: Paralyzed Veterans of America