tv Conversation with Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin CSPAN September 8, 2017 8:00pm-8:30pm EDT
exclusive. we showed it today to introduce you to c-span cities tour. for six years, we have traveled to u.s. cities bringing the book seen to our viewers. you can watch more of our visit on c-span.org. tonight on c-span, our interviews with the veterans affairs secretary. what's the secretary david chilcote, david showcase about issues facing veterans -- secretary david shulkin, you
oversee the second largest government agency department. what is your management style, approach to this job ? a might approach is getting mandate from the president and the country to get this organization back on track. what it really is, is to make sure this -- can take care of our countries veterans. the hurricane, when i look back the andthe history, decades of problems that haven't been dealt with -- the solutions were difficult to make by severalff
administrations. now there is a natural progression of these problems developing. >> clearly, you can't go back and change things. if you could, what would you change? >> not putting a hard decisions. when there are problems developing, organizations outside of government are taking modernizing, government can't keep its head in the sand and fall behind. these are management issues that i think have been important to us, and now we will tackle them head on. >> do you consider yourself first and foremost a doctor? >> absolutely. i still see patients, but that is who i am. aspproach the job primarily a physician, secondly as a manager. >> wyatt dr.? >> is about helping people -- >> why a doctor?
>> it's a way of helping people. you can help many more people in a much broader way, so i consider my management career though, as an extension of what i have been doing is a physician. non-military person to hold this position. what do you bring to the job? >> i bring my experience in the private sector, and my passion contribute and do public service. while i am not a veteran, i long -- come from a long history of public service commitment in my family. later in lifence to give back and do public service. a veteran, it gives me extra reason to make sure i'm connected with those who are veterans, to work with her veterans services organizations, and to be out
iere interacting to make sure understand how to lead this organization in the right direction. >> your dad was in the army? what do you do -- what did he do? what did he tell you about his military?s in the >> will go beyond my dad first. my grandfather, his father, was the chief pharmacist at madison, wisconsin pa. . grew up -- v.a. i grew up listening to him talking about veterans, and how much it meant for him, working at the v.a. as a medical student i worked in the v.a., of course. as a resident, i worked in two other v.a.'s, so that's really where i learned and trained. of course, father, being a psychiatrist in the military, not only talked about his army experience, but also growing up,
talked about how he would deal with people that were suicidal, or really struggling with other mental health issues. that is one of the big issues we are dealing with today in the v.a., 20 veterans of the day taking their life through suicide, active care, and mental health priorities and treatment. all of these issues are things that have always been on my mind. >> i want to come back to disk -- will talk about suicide. when talked to family members about people who have taken their lives, what do they tell you? them system that has the and their family down. it has let them down. they lostts, after their son -- and they shared with me and this has now been published publicly -- it is
pretty clear that the whole family was elected down by a system. not intentionally, but it had too many gaps in it. from that experience, it talked meright up front -- talked me that this is totally unacceptable. it's my total priority to address this issue. >> based on your dad's experience as a psychiatrist, what motivates somebody to take their life? >> think it's the sense that there aren't any other options. it's staying in isolation. sometimes it's being in pain, sometimes it's just the illness itself. whether it's depression in the sense of hopelessness, that lets people think that there is no
better option -- and that's part of do, make sure people aren't alone, that's they have the that they need around them and that they are connected with the right resources. we know veterans get care in the happens,t when that they do better, they are less likely to look at suicide as an option. we can help connect them with the right help. care for veterans to expect lincoln, correct? >> before that. the v.a. gives president clinton that credit, because right before that -- right before his second inaugural, he said it's the country responsibility to care for those wounded in battle. that's what we put throughout this building. i usually start most every public talk with president lincoln's commitment to that. this goes all the way back to the tale -- when there were soldiers, there were commanders
that had a commitment to care for those who took their lives, and to protect what they believed in. this is right back in the very beginning of this country. there was a commitment and needed, responsibility -- and need, responsibility, to take care of those. >> and outings what today for veterans -- that means what today for veterans? >> we have a problem today. less than 1% of citizens now serve in the military. hand andle raise their phone tear to go off and put their life at risk, they have to understand, when the come back, the country's going to be there for them. they need to know that. not just for 30 days, but their lifetime. when something happens, as a result of conflict or service,
they have to understand that we are there for them, no matter how long it takes. that responsibility is connected to our national security commitment. -- ifill not volunteer they don't have support. it comes to national disasters, what's the role of the v.a.? missions.. has four the health-care one is one that people understand. we also have the educational mission, were retrained 70% of u.s. trained doctors and this country. we are the largeestt organization with -- doing research, and our research division. the fourth division is -- are urth mission is preparedness.
disaster preparedness. it's the v.a. that is apparent for military and natural -- disasters. fight to get the most nurses, health care professionals, nur doctors in te country. our first mission was to make sure that veterans health care and benefits continue. no medical center in houston stayed open. friday evening for now, making sure that there are 400 inpatients able to get the care that they needed. our operating room stayed open. we have mobile units throughout houston. down there with vice president, but i also returned -- with mrs. trump. personal commitment, to be able to make sure that veterans in the area in texas,
530,000 of them, knew that we were there for them and we would be there no matter what, was important for me. >> goes back to your management style. how do you mobilize and manage and get all of this done, and insurance done properly and efficiently? >> the jubilee people look at their leaders and make sure they're walking -- i do believe people look at their leaders and walking theey're walk. iis is one of the reasons still practice medicine in the v.a.. there is no better way to connect with your staff and customer basis you serve them to let them know that you are personally committed to this, and you understand the situation they are going through. ?> where did you grow up >> i was born on an army place for my dad was serving in
chicago. soon after, he married my mother, who is from philadelphia, and we ended up there. >> siblings? >> older sister who is a psychologist. >> what does she tell you about her profession, and how do you apply that to your drug? >> our family was very cap -- how do you apply that to your job? managed wellfamily through difficult times. they were able to stick at this issue particularly as it relates to meeting mental health needs, how important that is. people are pushing in the right direction -- to make sure we have mental health professionals, and that's integrated into the physical aspects of care. which -- traded veteran as a -- treat veterans as a whole person. >> how did you meet your wife? >> in medical school.
she was a friend of mine. we've gone through our trainings in the v.a. together. she's now a dermatologist. connect a lotl about what it means to be a doctor. at first sight could -- >> love at first site? >> took longer for me. >> why? >> she wanted to make sure -- chu is looking at all of her options. i knew she was the right person. >> children? what do they do? >> yes, my son graduated from nyu, works in the new york area in the manage cap -- helping to improve properties in the manage care industry. my daughter is in her final year of law school.
career talk about your at the medical center. you were the ceo. you also wanted to make sure that things were done properly. how did that train you for this job? what did you learn in that position? >> running in new york city hospitals very complex task. crazything unusual or happens, it can happen in new york city. so yes, you have to be prepared for everything. very complex work relationships as well, with a very strong unions and other group that worked in managing, and working in hospitals. foras a good way to prepare him complexity, trouble that organizations can have. working through that gave me confidence in understanding that many of the problems that we see with the v.a. across the country, the scale is much bigger, but really, it's a
similar approach to what it did in the private sector. >> do you have a unique understanding of the complexities and health care, and what we know about the affordable care act, and what will try to deal with today? understand the broader issues in health care that has to do with making sure that we have a way to provide access to health care. i think if you're run a hospital organization, you understand when people need health care, they will come to you regardless of whether they have insurance or not. understanding how to do it in a way that is affordable is also important. i think that's what people are seeing at the national level with health care reform, is a balance between affordability and the complexity on what's in the middle, and how to administer a program like that. >> you are at the university of pennsylvania? what was that job? >> that was an ability to, after
it finished my critical training, to get expertise in finance and management skills. i was supported in that program by foundation which allowed me to be able to develop some of the skills i think dr. may not necessarily have when they leave medical school, to the -- but to become a leader, you need to round up those skills. atas fortunate to do that the university of pennsylvania. >> another issue you are dealing with, transgender veterans. what's your approach? >> once somebody becomes a withan, we will treat them dignity and respect, no matter what their issues are. atre's a change in policy the department of defense, they're going to need to decide who is veteran. the the come out in department of defense, my mission and responsibility is clear. ofbody who becomes a veteran somebody we are going to take care of, as long as they want us
to take care of it. courts have you have any interesting or memorable conversations with veterans, whether it be world war ii, vietnam, or other conflicts? >> and thinking about yesterday, were headed -- military vitiation day. spent some time with world war ii veterans. these are such amazing people. they have stories of such sacrifice and courage that impact me. i love spending time with them. i came to my management meeting this morning with leaders here and said -- my spirits yesterday, we have to do something more about capturing .he stories of individuals young people today don't really understand what that generation went through and what they did to be able to allow us to be here today.
>> generally speaking, this generation, generation didn't want to talk about it. they moved on with their lives. >> i think that was very much to be awhat it meant soldier at that time. i think what we've learned is, when we don't have the ability to share and speak, by internalizing that you can make issues more difficult. now what we try to do is allow people to understand that sharing and talking with people about what they've experienced is an important part of coming back and being successful, when you transitioned back into civilian life. it's also important to share
with the 99% to haven't experienced what -- people have served -- can understand how they can support and service veterans. >> another issue, whistleblowers in the v.a. how do you figure that people can point a finger without repercussions? >> with him a lot in that regard. we have whistle brawler -- whistleblower protection that reports directly to me. talke have place to safely about things that would concern to them. one of the things we have recently done is brought some whistleblowers to work directly in the office so they could be part of fixing the problems -- part of the solutions. think we've done a lot there. we also have a new law that
allows us to expand additional protections for whistleblowers. >> invert for barack obama and now donald trump. >> first of all, anybody who had a privilege of working for any commander-in-chief gross a deeper respect and affection for .heir commander-in-chief i had a great deal of respect and affection for president -- andand convincing mr. couldn't say nicer things about working with him. but president trump, very different styles, he's clear about what he wants done, president trump, and he puts that out there and sets high expectations. then he wants you to do that job. my experience with president trump is an ideal boss for me. i know what i need to do. and what the expectations are and i know i have his support.
need his help, his nice to me. -- i know you have a problem solve. i know it's been a mature privilege to work or for both of these presidents. this president now that i'm toretary is allowing me accomplish things that we are getting done here. >> a strong different privately? -- lessguy who really deeply about, veteran care, support of our active service members. he something -- when he speaks he states right for his heart on the issue. we have candid conversations about this. he is very easy to deal with and acceptable -- i don't know if everybody sees that side of him. >> it's safe to say you are the only cabinet member to be confirmed by the u.s. senate by
vote of 100 to nothing. how did that come about? >> is a reflection on how the country feels about their commitment to veterans, that this is not a partisan issue. if there's anything americans agree upon, it's that we need to do better. the congress reflects that. it didn't surprise me that this was an area where we would have unanimous support. if you take a look at the bills we've gotten through congress so far, is largely been done was almost unanimous support, strong bipartisan support in all cases. >> how did you come apart this job -- with president obama? >> is reading about a crisis in the newspaper. ithought wow, i wish that
could do something about it. to my phone rang -- then my , and the thing most people would've reacted same way. i didn't plan on coming and saying a long time. planned on this as being my chance to get back in public service. about that i could get something done. where we came up to where trump was coming into office to be tougurated, and i was asked
take on the role of secretary, i realized at that point that i haven't gotten everything done that i want. i think we make some good progress, but i haven't made the difference i'd hoped to make. i thought it was an extraordinary opportunity for me to take the knowledge that i gained in the last administration, and now with a renewed effort. as long as we are making a difference, it's something that i would feel good about. i can feel good about the direction that this is headed in. any sense, in terms of how long you want to stay command-or, if there's another position you would want? >> very happy and honored to be able to serve in this capacity in the administration. serve in thise to
administration as long as the president wants me in the role, and as long as i'm able to be able to get work done and make improvements in the organization. what he liked to do on a day off? >> it will be hypothetical>> as i don't. one of the issues about being a cabinet secretary, it really is, the pace is pretty incredible, there's no difference between workdays, weekends, and mornings and nights. these are pretty demanding jobs, where it is work most of the time. i am very grateful for those who supported in this role in the administration. mostly, my family was really happy for me -- being in the to do the things that i could do even as undersecretary, to be there for home duties, to be able to spend time with them. there's lots of time on the road, a lot of time in the late
night and weekend meetings and obligations. who have felt at the ca hasn't been there for them, what would you tell him? >> i think one of the things i want to do is to acknowledge that experience. i know there are too many veterans today we still aren't meeting the needs in the way that we want. we understand that, and some of these problems have been long-standing. but, we are tackling them. we are making progress every day. but committees are going to take -- some of these problems are going to take years to fix. some will take legislative changes. some will take different approaches of the government to address these issues. not, we are not backing away from tough problems. we are tackling those heads on. i ask people to continue to work with us until we get this right
because that is our commitment, to get this so that we are serving the veterans anyway they want us to be served. >> despite the hours and long days, are you still enjoying it? ] www.c-span.org > there's been there's been no greater professional satisfaction than this. i've had a great career doing a lot of fun things, but there's no doubt, this is the most important thing of ever worked on my career, and i consider it a tremendous voyage to come to work every day. i will continue to give it my all and make sure we will do a right things for veterans. >> think you for your time. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] ♪ >> c-span's washington journal, live every day, with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up saturday morning, diana bernhardt discuss her group for free checks is -- free texas churches.
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