tv Conversation with Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin CSPAN September 8, 2017 11:35pm-12:05am EDT
shulkin, you david oversee the second largest agency department with 350,000 employees what is your management style? is your approach to this job? >> my approach is that we have a andate from the president and from the country to get this track.ation back on and so we're an organization hard but een working
not necessarily accomplishing what we really need to accompli accomplish. so i have an urgency, an im in my management style. we need to be sure that the successful. is > how did it get off track and when? >> good question. back, it's decades and decades of problems that haven't been dealt with for a long time that essentially the solutions were difficult, so from ot pushed off administration to administration administration. there's a natural progression of these problems developing until clearly.hem now so >> and you can't go back and change things, but if you could, you have changed? >> it's a matter of not putting decisions. when there are organizations outside of government are taking
and modernizing, government can't afford to fall and keep its head in the sand. these are management issues that been important to address and now we'll tackle them head on. you consider yourself a doctor first and foremost? >> absolutely. patients, but it's who i am. i approach he way the job primarily as a physician and secondly as a manager. doctor? why did you pursue that career? about helping people. that's where my passion is. administrator and manager, you can begin to help fix some issues and it more people in a broader way. my really consider career an extension of that career.
>> what do you bring to the job? > my experience in the private sector and my ability to do public service. veteran, but i come history of public service. that's one thing that i regret, ot being able to go in and help. it's my chance to give back and do public service. i'm not a veteran, it gives me extra reason and mphasis to make sure that i'm connected to those who are veterans and work with our veterans service organizations out there interacting on a daily basis to make sure that can lead thisow i organization in the right direction. >> your dad was in the army? >> yes. >> what did he do? >> psychiatrist. you about he tell the experiences that he had in the military? my dad. it went beyond my grandfathers were in the military. my grand father's father was the
chief pharmacist at the madison, wisconsin, v.a. i grew up listening to him alk about him serving veterans and how much he loved working at v.a. as a medical student, i worked in the v.a., of course. resident, i worked in two other v.a.s and that's where i trained and that had a big impact on me. my father being a psychiatrist, talked about his experience and how he would deal with people that were and people that were really struggling with mental -- issues and access to healthcare. we're dealing with 20 veterans a taking their life due to suicide and mental health
treatment. issues are ese things that have been on my mind and i thought a lot about. come back to your childhood, but let's talk about suicide for a moment. family talk to the members of those veterans that do taken their lives, what they tell you? >> it's a system that let them let their family down. family of d with the daniel sommers, and how off the hey lost their son, and they shared with me and it's been published, their son's suicide note. pretty clear that the whole family was let down by a intentionally, but a gaps inhat had too many it. from that experience, it taught right up front that will are things that shouldn't happen and hat we're seeing it 20 times a
day is unacceptable. hat's why it's my top clinical priority to address that issue. dad's d on your own expertise, what motivates somebody to take their life? that hink it's the sense there are no other options. it's being in isolation. it's being scared. in pain.g sometimes it's the onus itself, it's depression and the sense of hopelessness, that lets there is no better option. and that's part of what we have do. we have to make sure that people are not alone. that they have the support that they need around them and that connected with the right resources. we know that when veterans get that they do a. better. hey are rest likely to look at suicide as an option and we can save lives by connected them
help.the right >> the promise to care for the veterans dates back to abraham that correct? >> before that. we at the v.a. give president lincoln that credit because his second inaugural address he came said, it's the country's responsibility to care for those that's what we put throughout this building and i start almost every public talk with that. but when you look back goes back to it the pilgrims. soldiers, there were commanders that felt the care for those their levels up for battle. so this is to the beginning of country that theres with a and tment and a need responsibility for those that had put their lives at risk for us.
promise today means what? today is even more relevant, when we have a service.y less than 1% of citizens serve in the military. people raise their hand and volunteer to go off and put toir life at risk, they have understand that when they come back, the country will be there for them. and not just on the first 30 days after they're here, but commitment.time when something happens, as a result of conflict and result of service, they have to understand we're there for them no matter how long it takes. so that responsibility is connected to our national and you commitment won't see people being as willing to volunteer if they that the country will be for them when they come back. texas,saw you in houston, with vice president mike pence, and we're in the middle of hurricane season, so when it
natural disasters, what is the role of the v.a.? v.a. has four missions. healthcare is one that people understand. educational an mission, where we train 70% of u.s.-trained doctors in this country. we have a research mission, where we're the largest organization doing research. $1.6 billion, all dedicated to of veterans. lives our fourth mission is emergency preparedness. in the case of natural disasters ike hurricane harvey or in the case of the military disaster, it really is the v.a. that is respond in conjunction with other federal agencies. we have the most doctors in the country. we have the most nurses in the country. the most mental health professionals in the country. we have mobile units that can be deployed around the country and we train for this. in the country.
case of hurricane harvey, our first mission was to make sure that veterans healthcare and benefits continued. so our medical center in houston open.d we had staff there friday now making sure that our case of hurricane400 care they the needed. units deployed mobile throughout houston. i was there with the vice returned two i days later with the president and mrs. trump. so having my personal commitment make sure that the veterans 530,000 ofa in texas, them, knew that we were there we were going at to be there no matter their needs, was very important for me. >> it goes back to your management style. you are only one person. how do you mobilize and management and get all of this ensure it's done properly and efficiently. >> i believe that people look at their leaders and maybe sure that they're walking the talk. t was important for me to be
there. and that's why i went there twice and i will continue to ise sure that me and my team visible there. it's one of the reasons that i still practice medicine in the v.a. way to cop better connect with your staff and customer base than to let know that you understand what they're going through. grow?ere did you >> philadelphia area. army base.on an soon after, he married my from , who was philadelphia. >> brothers, sisters? > older sister, who is a psychologist. >> what does she tell you about her profession and how do you apply that to your job? >> i have a family that's very needsted to the emotional of people and has been there helping people as they go through difficult times.
so i think that they share their wisdom to be able to relate to the mental health of veterans and i think pushing in the to make sure n, that we have mental health professionals and it's integrated to the physical aspects of care. to make sure that we have mental health the person that can have physical eeds and emotional needs that need to be integrated together. >> how did you meet your wife? medical school. she was a classmate of mine. through our trainings and residencies together. she's a dermatologist. we get to connect a lot on what it means to be a doctor. >> love at first sight? >> for me. i think it took her a little bit longer. >> why?
[laughter] wanted to make sure she was looking at all of her options. right person the took a little and convincing. >> two adult children? do.we my son graduated from n.y.u. and area in the new york he managed care industry helping to improve processes in the managed care industry, which they need a lot of assistance with. my daughter is a -- in her final year of law school at harvard. me talk about your career and you were the ceo walked the halls at night to make sure things were done properly. you for s that train this job? what did you learn in that position? new york city -- ital is very come complex. if anything unusual or crazy
happen in new york city. nd very complex work relationships as well with very other groups nd that work in hospitals. good way to prepare or the complexity and the troubles that organizations can have. that, it king through gave me covered and understanding that many of the v.a. and e see in the across the country, the scale is uch bigger, but addressing the problems, it's a similar approach to what i did in the private sector. you have a unique nderstanding of the healthcare and what congress is trying to deal with today? >> yes. i certainly understand the issues in the affordable care the broader issues. if you run a hospital or
organization, you understand that when people need healthcare, they will come to ou regardless if they have insurance or not. so providing access is important to do it tanding how in a way that's affordable is also important debate that we're seeing at the national level with health reform, the balance access and affordability is ine complexity on what the middle on how you administer a program like that. scholar re a clinical at the university of pennsylvania? >> yes, i was. to -- after i ty finished my clinical training to in finance and management skills. program ported in that me foundation that allowed to develop some of the skills hat a doctor may not necessarily have when they leave medical skills, but need to
skills.t those >> we talked about the issue of suicide. nother issue you are dealing with is transgender veterans. what is your approach? veteran, mebody is a we're going to serve them and dignity and th respect. if there's a change in policy at department of defense, they ill need to decide who is a veteran. becomes a veteran is somebody that we're going to take care of as long as they of them.o take care >> have you had any interesting conversations with eterans, whether world war ii, vietnam or more recent conflicts? >> yeah. yesterday i had a chance at ilitary appreciation day to spend time with world war ii veterans. amazing are just such stories of ave
sacrifice and courage that me.cts i love spending time with them. i came to my management meeting this morning and said, after my yesterday, we have to do something more about of these the stories incredible individuals. i think that young people today on't really understand what that generation went through and hat they did to allow us to be here today. but i think it's an important part of what v.a. needs to do. they need to expand the mission include the ability to people are doing and have done to the rest of the population. it's been missing for me. >> why do you think generally speaking this generation, that eneration, didn't want to talk about it? they never really boasted what they did in world war ii. lives ved on with their and focused on family and their careers. >> i think it was very much part
and part of what it meant to be a soldier at that time. we've learned t is, when you don't have the speak that hare and by internalizing that, you can issues more difficult. now what we try to do is allow to understand that verbalizing and sharing and alking to people about what they've experienced is an important part of coming back successful in your transition back to civilian life. to share withtant the rest of the 99% that had not experienced what people who served, so they can understand how to support those in service better. are dealingssue you with, whistle-blowers within the v.a. ow do you make sure that those that want to point a finger at hose that are not working with do so without repercussions. >> we've didn't a lot in that
regard. we've established an office of whistle-blower protection that me, so directly to people can make sure that people have a place that they can about things that are of concern to them that they notas employees and there's retaliation. we've brought some of the whistle-blowers themselves to directly in that office, so they can tell us what they have be part of and fixing the problems and part of the solutions. o i think we've done a lot there. new law that allowed us and expands protections. > you've worked for two presidents, barack obama and now donald trump. are they different? >> oh, yeah. they're very different. has the the privilege of working for the grows a deep hief respect and affection for their commander-in-chief.
deal of respect for president obama and couldn't what the things about experiences with like to work for him. the president trump, president, very different style. about what he wants done. and he puts that objective out sets high expectations and lets you do that job. with president trump is, he's an ideal boss for me because i know what i need to do. what the expectations are. and he lets me do that job and i support.ave his and when i need his help, he's accessible to me and he will be help me problem-solve. so i really feel it's been an work rdinary privilege to for both of thesing presidents. president, now that i'm secretary, is allowing me to mrish -- accomplish what
we're getting done. >> is president trump deeply privately? >> he feels very deeply about issues. eteran care and support of our service members is something passionate about. when he speaks, he speaks from his heart. lot of candid conversations about this. he's easy to deal with and said.sible, as i i don't know if everybody sees that side of him. i'm fortunate that i get a that. to see >> am i safe to say that you are be only cabinet member to confirmed by a vote of 100-1? true., that's >> how did that come about? >> i think it's a reflection on ow the country feels about their commitment to veterans. it's not a partisan issue. on, we needwe agree to do better. so it didn't surprise me it was
have nap at we would must support on. if you look at the five bills congress, n through they've largely been done with support.animous certainly strong, bipartisan and this something that speaks highly of the congress and highly of the president's the issues.n >> how did you come about with president irst with obama? reading about the wait time crisis and saying, wow, i this is a national embarrassment and we're letting i veterans down and i wish could do something about it. and my phone rang and it was somebody from the white house to ng, this is your chance do something about it. and i just didn't feel like i so the option to say no and i immediately said, how can i help? that's how i ended up here. most people would have reacted
same way. >> has it met your expectations? hat are your biggest frustrations? >> i didn't plan on coming and long time. i planned on it being my chance back in public service. hen i enter the government, it was the last 18 months of the obama administration. it for 18 months and hoped i could get something done. it came up to president trump about to be inaugurated i was asked to take on the role of secretary, i really at that point said, you know, i everything done that i want to get done. i think we've made some good i haven't made the difference that i think i had hoped to make. it was an t extraordinary opportunity for me to take the knowledge that i in the lasted a minnesota
-- last administration and now effort under president trump to get those goals accomplished. as long as we're making a something and it's that i can feel good about it and i do feel good about the direction this department is headed in. >> i realize that you are focused on your current job. any sense of how long you want to stay or if there is position you would want to serve? >> i'm honored to serve in this and administration and i will continue to serve in this administration as long as the president wants me in this role nd i feel that i'm able to great the work done and make improvement in the organization. been busy, but if david shulkin has a day off, like to do?ou >> i would like to answer that, hypothetical. i don't think i've had a day off. the pace is pretty incredible
no difference between work days and weekends mornings and nights. where it's ng jobs work most of the support me in the role here in the administration, mostly to my family, who is how to adjust to me not being able to do the things i could do even as undersecretary, to be able to spend time with them. , and af time on the road lot of time in late night and weekend meetings and obligations. who have felt maybe that the v.a. has not been there for them, what would you tell them? >> one of the things i want to do is acknowledge that x area. i know there are too many veterans today who still are not meeting the needs in the way we need to. what i would like to say to them
is that we understand that and that some of these problems have been long-standing, but we are tackling them, we are making progress every day. some of these problems are going to take years to fix. some of them take legislative changes, some are going to take completely different approach of a government to address these issues. but we are not backing away from the tough problems, we are tackling them head-on. a would 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 in the way they want to be served. host: you are still enjoying it? >> there has been no greater professional satisfaction that i have had, i have had a very fortunate career doing a lot of great things, but there is no doubt this is the most important thing i have worked on in my career, and i consider it a
tremendous privilege to come to work every day, and i will continue to give it my all to make sure we're doing the right thing for our veterans. host: mr., we thank you for your time. two'ss weekend on c-span book tv. sanders offerse thoughts on how to bring about change in america. >> what is the agenda? what should be -- we be doing as a nation? if you have a metal craft -- middle-class shrieking and millions are living in poverty, the first thing i think we've got to do is demand that if you work 40 hours a week in iowa, vermont or america, you are not living in poverty. 9:00, douglas shown discusses his book.
"america in the age of trump," tries to forge common sense bipartisan solutions to the problems we are facing. i would argue the problems are being to ase and and great degree, made worse still by our political leadership. ," daniel "afterwords allen examines mass incarceration in her book. >> 25% of the world's prison population in our prisons despite we have only 5% of the world population? it touches everybody. there are a lot of stories we're not telling. we are letting the thing live. we've got to give a story felt so we can see the damage we are doing and fix it. >> for more on this week's
schedule, go to booktv.org. >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. >> at today's white house briefing, the homeland security advisor to the president gave an update on the overall response to hurricanes harvey and irma. after his remarks, whiteheads -- white house press secretary sarah huckabee sanders took questions from reporters. this is half an hour.