Change and reform coming to VA in St. Louis

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – Massive changes are coming to the Department of Veterans Affairs and it could lead to a lot of employees losing their jobs.

But it could also mean more veterans will get better healthcare.

Robert McDonald, the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs was put in charge of the agency this summer after a wait-time scandal forced the previous secretary to resign.

McDonald says he plans to fire 35 employees right away, and 1000 more as soon as he can.

But he also plans to do some hiring through something new called the 'Choice Act."

'It provides $5 million to hire more doctors, nurses and other medical staff,' said McDonald.  'It also provides another $10 million to fund additional purchase care while building our internal capability."

'It seems so simple,' said army veteran Chuck Parnell.

'Why wasn`t this done ten years ago?'

When we first met Parnell in June, he was mad.

Parnell had gone to St. Louis` Cochran VA hospital with ulcerated wounds on his ankles and feet, but was sent home only with ointment.

He thinks the changes coming to the VA will make veterans` health care better, and he thinks since the scandal broke, they are better already.

'I just feel like I am being treated better and everything is timely and they seem a little more genuinely concerned,' Parnell said.

But Desert Storm veteran Mark Vandiver is not so sure the changes will have much effect.

He stopped going to the St. Louis VA to get treatment for PTSD, because it took so long to see a doctor.

'I`m a little skeptical,' Vandiver said

'They always say they are going to come in and take care of things, not only with the VA but also some of the politicians, and it never goes all the way through,' he said.

We wanted to ask the St. Louis VA about how these changes could affect services locally but a spokesperson said they do not have enough information yet to comment.

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