Barry A. Searle, director of The American Legion's Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division, recently testified before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs concerning VA's fourth mission: preparedness for disaster and supporting both the Department of Defense and Federal Emergency Management Agency in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.
Searle identified that VA, at the national level, was developing and publishing numerous well-organized policies and procedures but does not seem to have a mechanism for oversight of regional offices, VISNs or facilities. This autonomous nature of the VA structure is not unique to preparedness, as it has also been found in hiring practices when it comes to veterans' preference and quality of processing claims by the VBA.
Searle also attended a veterans service organization summit hosted by the Military Order of the Purple Heart in Arlington, Va. The purpose of the summit was to identify best practices and efficiencies, and expand working relationships among VSOs on behalf of veterans. It was agreed that closer coordination of efforts by all VSOs speaking with a unified voice will better further the veterans' agenda.
On July 25, Searle participated in a congressional staffer/VSO quarterly update brief at the Washington VA Medical Center. The American Legion was thanked for recently participating in a "Welcome Home American Hero" event in Maryland.
Searle also recently attended a meeting at the headquarters of the American Federation of Government Employees, joining representatives from Disabled American Veterans and Paralyzed Vets of America. The topic was a presentation by AFGE about its concerns with VA's emphasis on quantity over quality at the Board of Veterans' Appeals.
The discussion after the presentation involved the group's concurrence that quality should be the focus in quickly adjudicating veteran's claims. However, Searle again stated that what incentives and/or negative personnel actions should be conducted to attain goals was an internal issue between VA management and the union.