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NEWS | Nov. 4, 2021

DOD, VA work hand in hand for better outcomes for veterans, officials tell Senate

By Terri Moon Cronk DOD News

Strategic planning is the bedrock of the joint effort between the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs and it sets a condition for collaborative work to improve the outcome for active duty personnel who are separating from the service and for veterans, Gilbert R. Cisneros Jr., undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness told a Senate committee Nov. 3.

Cisneros and his VA counterpart, Donald Remy, deputy secretary of veterans affairs, testified today before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. The work between the two departments reflects their shared vision for the future and enduring commitment to service members, veterans, their families and caregivers, Cisneros said.

"I'm also pleased to share that Secretary Remy and I recently signed the VA-DOD Joint Strategic Plan, charting our joint endeavor for the next six years," he told committee members. 

The VA-DOD partnership has never been stronger, Cisneros said. "Our roles and responsibilities position us well to ensure open and frequent dialogue, lead change, resolve conflict, guide joint actions, initiatives, programs and policy. We have already developed a meaningful open-door cooperative relationship, which has yielded results, some of which I've highlighted in my written testimony," he said.

"Military-to-civilian readiness is one area Secretary Remy and I are both committed to. It aligns more than 20 transitional programs, activities and actions owned by multiple offices and agencies under an overachieving framework during a critical and officially designed transition period, which extends from 365 days pre- to 365 days post-separation," Cisneros said.

Standardized assessments and exams, integrated programs, mental health touchpoints, and a new online single, authoritative tailored statement of benefits are all components of this important framework that we continue to champion, he told the committee.

Interoperability and shared business practices are critical to increasing access and improving outcomes for service members and veterans, Cisneros said.

As of September 2021, there are 147 active health care resource sharing agreements and 35 active non-medical agreements nationally, he said, adding that these agreements cover a wide range of support services, operating and integrating programs like the VA-DOD Integrated Disability Evaluation System. 

"Secretary Remy and I are committed to the collaborative efforts needed to realize the strategic vision laid out in the VA-DOD joint strategy," Cisneros said.