New VA acting secretary shares his vision for the agency with employees
Video courtesy of US Dept. of Veterans Affairs YouTube
Employees at the Veterans Affairs Department are hearing from their new boss for the first time this week.
In a video message to employees, new VA acting Secretary Robert Wilkie described his vision for the department and his own leadership philosophy.
“We must have a bottom-up organization,” Wilkie said. “The energy must flow from you [who] are closest to those we are sworn to serve. It is from you that the ideas we carry to the Congress, the VSOs and to America’s veterans will come. Anyone who sits in this chair and tells you he has all the answers is in the wrong business.”
With former Secretary David Shulkin’s removal, President Donald Trump named Wilkie, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, to lead VA. He’ll serve on an interim basis while the Senate considers the nomination of White House physician Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson to be the department’s secretary.
Though Wilkie acknowledged it’s unclear how long he’ll serve at the department, he said he wants VA employees to start thinking about customer service in a new way.
“Customer service is the key, but customer service not necessarily in the way you might think,” he said. “Customer service must start with each other, not talking at each other, but with each other across all office barriers and across all compartments. If we don’t listen to each other, we won’t be able to listen to our veterans and their families.”
In appointing Wilkie, Trump chose to bypass VA’s current deputy secretary, Tom Bowman, to lead the department on a temporary basis.
This decision has some veterans service organizations worried. AMVETS, one of the nation’s largest VSOs, wrote to the president earlier this week and asked that he reconsider his appointment.