New VA secretary facing scandal head-on

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- After years of mismanagement, the Department of Veterans Affairs is working to bring back trust and confidence to the agency that’s charged with taking care of those who served our country.

David Shulkin, United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs., Photo Date: July 7, 2016

From long wait times to the over-prescription of opioid drugs to charges of malpractice -- the VA has been plagued by scandal.

"That trust is hard to rebuild. It takes time, and that’s exactly what we are doing. But it is our single focus," explained VA Secretary David Shulkin.

Shulkin is not a veteran, but he is known to be a hands-on leader. The Senate confirmed him unanimously.

“This is a reflection that the country views caring for our veterans as a bipartisan issue, and if there is one issue that everybody agrees upon, it is that we need to do everything we can to honor that commitment," said Shulkin.

Shulkin is one of the few cabinet members leading a department that isn’t facing cuts. President Trump wants to increase the VA budget by six percent to nearly $80 billion. The money could help fill thousands of vacancies the agency struggled to attract talent during the scandals.

“It demoralizes the entire workforce. So I do need the ability to get rid of people that have lost their way. But on the other hand, we need the ability to retain and recruit the very, very best that America has to offer," he said.

Shulkin has big plans to cut red tape -- including allowing more veterans to get care outside the VA. His top clinical priority is fighting veteran suicide. An average of 20 veterans die from suicide everyday.

"We need to reach out to our community partners and get everyone to focus on anybody who needs help to get them the care they need," said Shulkin.

Shulkin says the VA corporate structure is too big. He plans to reassign workers to the areas they’re needed most.

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