McDonald Names VA Advisory Committee to Tackle Reform

Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald on Friday released the names of members serving on a new panel intended to improve VA services and help in long-range reform planning.

The 14-member MyVA Advisory Committee -- MyVAC -- will be chaired by retired Army Maj. Gen. Joe Robles Jr., who also recently retired as chief executive officer and president of insurance giant USAA.

Michael Haynie, vice chancellor of Syracuse University in New York and an Air Force veteran who also serves as chairman of the Labor Department’s advisory committee on veteran employment, will be MyVAC’s vice chairman, McDonald said.

The committee members bring together a range of experiences and specialties from the private sector, state government, health care, academia and veterans organizations.

“The collective wisdom of our committee members is invaluable and each of them understands that VA must improve customer service and focus the Department on the needs of our Veterans. They are dedicated to that mission and I am grateful for their principled service to our Veterans,” McDonald said.

The VA secretary announced the committee membership in Phoenix, Arizona, where he and President Obama held a roundtable meeting with veterans and employees of the regional VA medical center that emerged as the center of the patient wait-times scandal nearly one year ago.

The highly publicized event was somewhat overshadowed by news earlier in the day that Sharon Helman, who was fired as director of the Phoenix hospital following revelations about the wait-lists, won back -- at least temporarily -- a $9,000 bonus that the VA had taken back from her through a reduction in pay.

In his announcement Friday McDonald said the committee would meet “multiple times per year” and also conduct periodic reviews to ensure the goals of MyVA, the department’s ambitious reorganization and improvements plan.

Historically, the VA has functioned as a series of not entirely coordinated regional networks each with their responsibilities for multiple programs. As a result, different VA networks may or may not cover an entire state, and more likely one part of a state may be within one network and another in a separate network.

So depending on the program, its administration could be detailed in any one of nine maps.

Under MyVA, there will be a single organizational chart and though the map will include five regions, the regions will adhere to state lines.

“The committee will provide advice on competing short-term and long-range plans, priorities and strategies to improve the operational functions, services, processes and outputs of the Department,” McDonald said. Additionally, it will advise on the funding necessary to achieve the goals and review the implementation of recommended improvements with an eye to suggesting any necessary course corrections, according to the announcement.

Other committee members are:

Herman Bulls, international director and chairman for public institutions for Jones Lang LaSalle, a commercial real estate and investment management corporation. He is an Army veteran, a West Point graduate and serves as a director of the West Point Association of Graduates and the Military Bowl, an NCAA sanctioned post season football game.

Teresa Carlson, a vice president for Amazon Web Services. She previously served as vice president of federal government business at Microsoft. Carlson also has 15 years of experience in the health care field and was recently named to Washingtonian Magazine’s “100 Most Powerful Women.”

Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard H. Carmona, a combat decorated and disabled Army Special Forces veteran of the Vietnam War. Carmona is currently a Distinguished Professor at the University of Arizona. He also holds numerous public and private leadership positions and has extensive experience in public health, clinical sciences, health care management, and national preparedness.

Dr. Delos “Toby” M. Cosgrove, chief executive officer and president of Cleveland Clinic. Cosgrove, an Air Force veteran, oversaw the reorganization of clinical services at Cleveland Clinic. He launched major wellness initiatives for patients, employees and communities. He was ranked in Modern Healthcare’s “100 most powerful people in healthcare” and “most powerful physician executives

Dr. Laura Herrera, Deputy Secretary for Public Health with the Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene. Herrera has served as the chief medical officer for Maryland and assisted the state’s Secretary of Health with implementing health delivery reform in Maryland. She served as a medical officer in the Army Reserve, as National Director of Women’s Health, and the Acting Deputy Chief Officer of Patient Care Services in the VA’s Veterans Health Administration.

Chris Howard, president of Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. Howard is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, an Air Force Academy graduate and Rhodes Scholar. He serves on the National Security Education Program Board and is a member of the American Council on Education’s board of directors.

Nancy Killefer, vice chair of the Defense Business Board. Killefer was senior director in the Washington office of McKinsey & Company, an international management consulting firm. She founded and led McKinsey’s global public sector practice. She is also a former chief financial officer, chief operating officer and assistant secretary for management for the Treasury Department, and previously chaired the IRS oversight board.

Fred Lee, an expert and consultant in the patient and family experience. Lee is the author of the health care leadership book, “If Disney Ran Your Hospital, 9 ½ Things You Would Do Differently.”

Dr. Eleanor “Connie” Mariano, founder of the Center for Executive Medicine. Mariano, a retired Navy rear admiral, was the first female director of the White House Medical Unit and the first military woman to become a White House Physician to the President. After serving in the White House she joined Mayo Clinic’s Executive Health Program She is a retired Navy Rear Admiral.

Jean Reaves, a Vietnam era veteran and a veterans’ advocate for 20 years. Reaves is a member of AMVETS and several other veteran service organizations. She is currently president of North Carolina AMVETS Service Foundation. She previously served as veteran liaison for former Sen. Kay Hagan, D-North Carolina, and is the wife and mother of veterans.

Maria “Lourdes” Tiglao, director of Outreach and Resource Development, for The District Communications Group, a communications consulting firm in Washington, DC. Tiglao is an Air Force veteran and established the first USAF Critical Care Medical Attendant Team in the Pacific. She currently serves as regional communications manager for Team Rubicon, a veteran disaster response service organization.

Robert E. Wallace, Assistant Adjutant General and Executive Director of Veterans of Foreign Wars. Wallace is a Vietnam veteran. He is responsible for the day-to-day operations of VFW activities in Washington, DC. He previously had a career in banking and also held positions in New Jersey state government in its Veterans Affairs and Employment and Training Commission.

-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at

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