Can Col. Lawrence Connell turn around the DC VA?
Efforts to improve and reform the Department of Veterans Affairs faced a headache last month when the department’s Office of Inspector General released a damning report on hospital conditions at the District of Columbia VA Medical Center. The report found that unsanitary conditions and supply shortages were putting patients at unnecessary risk.
The news gave the Trump administration an extra obstacle in its own backyard as the president seeks to make good on his campaign promise to take better care of America’s veterans. Changes in leadership, however, have already come to the D.C. VA Medical Center as Brian Hawkins, the medical center’s director, was replaced by acting director Col. Lawrence Connell, a retired Army Colonel.
Earlier this month, Connell held a town hall meeting to give veterans an opportunity to air their grievances about the medical center’s quality of care. The feedback at the event was mixed, with comments ranging from “You just can’t do this to veterans” and “You’re the captain of the Titanic,” to “I have nothing but good to say about the women’s clinic.”
Whether those who attended had good or bad things to say about the services the D.C. VA provides to more than 9 million veterans annually, it is clear that there is room for improvement. Is Connell the man to do it?
“We’ve got some issues that we need to fix. That’s not a secret,” said Connell. “That’s why I’m here, to fix those issues.”
Read more about veterans’ feedback from the town hall.