The Department of Veterans Affairs

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides health care for military veterans through a network of medical centers and clinics. In late 2013 and early 2014, employees of the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix began to raise concerns internally about the quality of care, patient wait times, and data management. With seemingly little response, concerned employees turned to the VA Office of Inspector General, the office of Senator John McCain, and reporters at The Arizona Republic.


By May of 2014, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki faced calls for his resignation by veterans groups. Internal audits and Congressional investigations ensued and Shinseki resigned in the face of mounting political pressure. On July 23, 2014, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee confirmed the appointment of Robert McDonald as the new Secretary of the Veterans Administration. Secretary McDonald, an Obama appointment, weathered his own series of controversies and after President Trump assumed office he nominated David J. Shulkin to serve as the ninth Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  Mr. Shulkin was the few holdovers from the Obama administration to serve in President Trump’s Cabinet (he had previously served as the Undersecretary of the VA), and was fired by Trump in March of this year amidst claims of misusing taxpayer funds and findings of funding waste within the VA.  Mr. Robert Wilkie was appointed to serve as the 10th Secretary of Veterans Affairs and was confirmed by the US Senate on July 23, 2018.  He was officially sworn into office on July 30 and has been on the job for little over 8 months.


You can see a summary of these events at the following link:

“Timeline: The road to VA wait-time scandal” March 12, 2015, The Arizona Republic.

Click here  for a link to a story about Mr. Wilkie.


write a memo to the new VA Secretary Robert Wilkie offering guidance about how to address the problems within the VA medical system. Your memo should be approximately five pages in length (double-spaced).

You may use just the information in the article(s) above for this writing assignment, or you may also do additional research if you are interested. There are a lot of details available, including reports and news articles, which may prove helpful if you decide to undertake additional research. However, try to be mindful that a complete reporting of the details is much less important than your analysis of the situation and application of course concepts. In other words, do NOT simply provide a timeline/summary of events.  Remember, a brief summary is always helpful to get your reader up to speed but that is not the purpose of this paper.  I want to know what you would advise Secretary Wilkie to do with the challenges he faces based on course concepts you have learned over the past few weeks.


The following may offer a way of organizing your analysis:


  1. What are the most significant risks and problems the Secretary of Veterans Affairs faces in the continued operation of the VA medical system? How has what happened in 2015 been further complicated by continued turmoil?  (You might find it helpful to consider the key stakeholders and sources of authority in Department of Veterans Affairs’ external environment, as well as doctors, nurses, and staff working within the medical system).


  1. What changes do you believe are necessary in order to improve the operations and reputation of the organization? Again, this is a complex situation and you aren’texpected to have full knowledge of all the details. Describe general principles or conceptsfrom the coursethat can help Secretary Wilkie analyze the situation to determine the best path forward.  Feel free to include any specific actions he might take. (Perhaps consider concepts related to the external environment, organizational structure and design, approaches to motivating workers and creating incentives, and how changes in these areas might help shore up external support and improve public perception, etc.).


  1. What do you see as the most important principles for successful change and transformation within the VA medical system? (Perhaps consider concepts related to overcoming resistance to change, resolving conflict, and attributes of effective, high performing organizations).


  1. Describe at least two lessons you learned from this issue that build upon concepts from this course.



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