Better serving those who have served
Year after year, I’m proud to host an annual Veterans Summit in Delaware to hear directly from those who have served our nation to find out what is working and what we can be doing better for them. For this year’s summit, it was my honor to welcome the tenth Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Robert Wilkie, to Delaware for the first time. I was also glad to be joined by Wilmington VA Director Vince Kane, as well as leaders of Delaware’s Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs).
We kicked off the summit at the Wilmington VA Medical Center to listen to our veterans and VA leaders discuss the issues and challenges facing veterans–including accessing VA care in a timely fashion and reducing the veteran suicide rate. We also heard about a number of recent success stories that have taken place in the First State– including effectively ending veterans’ homelessness, and opening and expanding new Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs) in Dover and Georgetown.
Our next stop was the University of Delaware’s STAR Campus to hear about an impressive partnership between the University and the Wilmington VA Medical Center that aims to improve customer service for our veterans. The VA Patient Experience Academy provides VA employees with training and expertise from some of the University’s top business and hospitality professors. It is a great example of new, smart ways that we can all be working together to better serve our veteran community. Secretary Wilkie and I both hope that the VA will be able to replicate this program across the country in order to enhance the experience that our veterans have when getting the care they need.
Having served 23 years in the U.S. Navy and Naval Reserves, I know the sacrifices our service members and their families make on behalf of our country. There are truly few duties more sacred to me than caring for those who have served our country by providing the health care they need to heal the wounds, both visible and invisible, suffered while serving on active duty. Thank you to the veterans and VA employees who attended this year’s Veterans Summit, especially those who shared their stories with me, voiced their concerns, and listened to our ideas about ways we can improve care for our veterans in Delaware.
At this year’s summit, I also mentioned the incredible progress that we have made in Delaware on behalf of veterans when we work together. I remember my very first visit to the Wilmington VA Medical Center back in 1973 – the year that I finished my third tour on active duty in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. At the end of my appointment, my doctor warned me that the care wasn’t very good. That wasn’t a view held by one person, but by many others in our state and around the country. We also had no CBOCs for our veterans in Kent and Sussex County, no Veterans Home, and no Veterans Cemeteries. I knew back then that if I ever had the opportunity, I would work to help improve VA health care across our state.
Over my career in public service, I’ve worked with our Congressional Delegation, from Bill Roth, Joe Biden, Mike Castle, John Carney, Chris Coons, Lisa Blunt Rochester – the list goes on and on – to do just that. Today, I am proud to say that the Wilmington VA, once an unwelcoming place for our veterans, is now a medical center with one of the highest satisfaction ratings in the country. We now have CBOCs in Kent and Sussex County. We have a Veterans Home in Milford. And we have two beautiful Veterans Cemeteries that serve as the final resting place for our veterans. But as much as we have improved, we know that we can always do even better.
You have my word that I will continue working with our Congressional Delegation, Secretary Wilkie, and my colleagues in the Senate to ensure our veterans who sacrificed so much for us receive the benefits and care they have earned and deserve.
Thank you all for another great Veterans Summit, and God Bless.