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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Secretary Eric K. Shinseki

Pharmacy Customer Care Center Announcement
Waco, TX
August 12, 2009

Chairman Edwards, many thanks for your longstanding support of Veterans over many years, and for inviting me to be here today for this announcement about the Pharmacy Customer Care Center you helped us stand up.

It’s great to be back in Texas. Some of my most rewarding years in the Army were spent here.

President Obama has charged me with transforming VA into a high-performing 21st century organization—one that serves Veterans by increasing access to services and benefits they have earned, by providing them the highest quality of healthcare available, and by controlling costs for them to the best of my abilities. Doing so will make VA a model of governance for others in government. It will be a different organization from the one that exists today.

Five years from now, we want to be the provider of choice for Veterans—in insurance, in healthcare, in education, in home loans, in counseling, and in employment.

To achieve that kind of regard from Veterans, we must make it easier for them to understand their entitlements and then make it much simpler for them to access their benefits.

The National Pharmacy Customer Care Center is a piece of this new effort. The new center will be there to answer questions from Veterans about their prescriptions and work with VA facilities so that our practitioners can address critical issues promptly and safely. It will also free up pharmacy staff at our medical centers and outpatient clinics to concentrate on their primary responsibilities—safely dispensing medicine to patients. Veterans will be able to call Waco, instead of trying to get answers from their local pharmacy.

This new contact center is just the latest of new VA projects serving Central Texas:

  • We are also implementing the new Post-9/11 GI Bill—the most comprehensive educational benefits package offered to Veterans since the original post-WWII GI Bill in 1944. The first tuition checks went out last week—some to Veterans in Central Texas schools.
  • We have designated the Waco VA Medical Center as a Center for Excellence for the study of PTSD and other mental health research affecting Veterans returning from combat. With Chairman Edwards’ support, we are investing $49 million in this effort, which will include the establishment of a blind rehabilitation unit.
  • We have also relocated the brain imaging and rehabilitation laboratory to Waco, to be part of this new Center for Excellence.
  • Next month, we will open another VA Outreach Clinic in La Grange. We expect the clinic to serve about 500 Veterans in its first year.
  • Finally, we are working closely with DoD to assist in counseling troops returning to Fort Hood from Iraq and Afghanistan. VA now has a social worker on site at Fort Hood, as well as other staff to help Veterans separating from service gain access to VA benefits. Our Central Texas system has one of the largest enrollments of OIF/OEF Veterans—over 17,000 have already enrolled.

More must be done to earn a "provider of choice" reputation amongst Veterans. Thanks to Chairman Edwards, we’re a lot closer to that objective here in Central Texas. That’s why I’m happy to be here to help make this announcement, which is good for Waco, good for VA, and, most of all, good for Veterans. Thank you.