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VA Secretary McDonald Tours and Praises Utah Efforts to Help Veterans

Secretary of the Department Veteran’s Affairs Robert McDonald toured the Salt Lake VA Medical Center and Regional Office Thursday. He delivered the University of Utah commencement address Thursday evening.McDonald says state and local government and the private sector are seen national leaders in the effort to end veteran homelessness.

“The secret sauce to ending homeless is this incredible collaboration from the federal government all the way to local organizations,” says McDonald, “We’re pushing hard to end veterans’ homelessness this year and here in Salt Lake you’ve led the way and I’m very proud as a graduate of the University of Utah for what you have done here.”

McDonald says workers and administrators are working hard to lower the number of back-logged cases that first came to light last year in Arizona. He blamed a limited federal budget for slower progress but says mandatory overtime hours for VA employees have been a short-term fix. He says cases of veterans waiting more than 120 days for care are down 70% nationally but in Utah those cases are down by 84%.

“So we’re making progress. We have a lot of work to do. The operations here in Salt Lake are some of our best all over the country,” McDonald says, “we’re trying to learn from them and expand what we learn to the rest of the country.”

McDonald says the VA is transitioning from an inward focused bureaucracy to concentrating on customer service for the expanding veteran population.

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