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New VA chief announces major overhaul of agency

Employees who violated the Department of Veterans Affairs "values" face dismissal, Secretary Robert McDonald said.

By Frances Burns
New VA chief announces major overhaul of agency
President Barack Obama announced his intention to nominate Robert McDonald, right, to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, DC on June 30, 2014. UPI/ Dennis Brack/Pool | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10 (UPI) -- As many as 1,000 Veterans Affairs employees could lose their jobs in a major housecleaning and restructuring, the department's new chief said Monday.

Secretary Robert McDonald announced his plans the day before Veterans Day at a forum at The Washington Post. He said the "largest restructuring in the department's history is under way."

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McDonald said 35 people already face disciplinary action, including dismissal.

"We're talking about people who violated our values," McDonald said. "Those values are integrity, it's advocacy, it's excellence."

McDonald replaced Eric Shinseki, who resigned three months ago amid a scandal about delays in treating veterans at VA hospitals and employees covering up those delays. An investigation found some veterans died while waiting as long as 90 days for appointments.

On the CBS news show "60 Minutes," McDonald said he plans to hire 28,000 new medical staff for VA hospitals and clinics. He told CNN that he plans to establish a customer service office.

The forum was focused on a new collection of veterans' stories "For Love of Country," by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and Washington Post senior writer Rajiv Chandrasekaran.

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"This book shows how much leadership, courage and perseverance veterans have," McDonald said. "And it's the VA's privilege and pride to care for them. We have a real opportunity right now, and there is no more noble or inspiring mission."

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