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VA secretary visits Indy medical center

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Secretary of Veterans Affairs paid a visit to the Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis Thursday.

It’s all about changing the VA’s image.

A year ago, the Roudebush Medical Center was one of a handful around the country that was being investigated for lengthy wait times. Now, VA Secretary Bob MacDonald says it’s an example that other VA hospitals should follow.

VA medical treatment is getting better, according Dr. Taiwo Ngwa. “I love taking care of the veteran population,” he said.

And that’s the same message coming from VA Secretary Bob MacDonald.

“We’re trying to create a culture which is open and transparent,” he said.

MacDonald is a former top executive at Proctor and Gamble who, among other things, is trying to convince Congress to give him a bigger budget. He knows that requires results.

“Trust has been compromised in the VA last year,” he said, “and we’re working hard to earn it back one veteran at a time.”

The veterans we were permitted to talk with like what they see.

“I appreciate what they do for me,” said Alfred Black.

“I’ve always been satisfied with the service I’ve been getting here,” said Herb Gilmore.

But MacDonald also knows that there is still damage control to be done.

He showed up prepared to talk about offensive emails, including one showing an elf committing suicide.

They were sent last year by a clinic manager who was fired a few months ago.

“From that episode,” said MacDonald, “7 individuals have been disciplined, all different kinds of discipline depending on their involvement, but we simply don’t tolerate that.”

The message is that things are getting better.

But veteran Vernon Thompson spelled out the bottom line.

“There is always need for improvement,” he said. “You can never be a hundred percent.”

The VA is now working with Starbucks, Disney, and Ritz Carlton on ways to improve customer service.

And while he was in town Secretary MacDonald met with leaders at the National Headquarters of the American Legion. He says he’s the first VA Secretary to do that.