By Eric Dehm
When West Point graduate and Army veteran Bob McDonald, the 8th Secretary of Veterans Affairs, left office in January 2017 he left a department that he felt was moving in the right direction. In fact, he tells ConnectingVets.com his team had plans in place to improve the care veterans were receiving, such as holding VA employees accountable and the modernization of appeals, that were put on hold for strictly political reasons.
“Some of the things that we were putting in place at the end, literally after the election we were told by Senator Johnny Isakson who led the senate committee for veterans affairs ‘look, we’re not going to pass that legislation until President Trump takes office.’ Well now lots of that legislation is getting passed,” McDonald says.
And if that sounds like sour grapes, McDonald makes sure to point out that’s not his intention. He’s merely stating the facts of the matter and isn’t interested in garnering any of the recent accolades that have come the way of his replacement at the top of the VA, Dr. David Shulkin.
“We don’t care who gets credit for it, all we care about is let’s get it passed,” McDonald says. “Let’s get this stuff done and get moving in the right direction. Much of this legislation is critically important.”
As of January, that critically important legislation is in the hands of Dr. Shulkin. But McDonald was not done serving the veteran community.
Remember, this is a man who while Secretary of the VA publicly released his personal cell phone number to allow vets to reach out to him directly for assistance. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that as soon as his time running the VA came to a close, McDonald sought a way to continue to work within the vet community.
He says there was interest shown from the major Veteran Service Organizations in having him join their teams but after years of working closely with those same VSO’s during his time as the head of the VA, he felt choosing between them would be like choosing between his children.
He just couldn’t bring himself to make that choice, so he looked for a new avenue to provide assistance to the community. He appears to have found it, having been recently named to the board of directors at RallyPoint, the largest social media network created by, and for, the veteran community.
McDonald says when he started learning about RallyPoint, he saw that it was a top flight organization using technology to bring veterans together. He says he started to see how the social networking website could work in concert with doing things the old-fashioned face-to-face way, to connect vets to each other.
“I went on about 365 trips (to VA Medical centers) in two and a half years because I wanted to be in touch with veterans,” McDonald says. “I’d go into the coffee shop and there would be veterans in the coffee shop in the medical center who didn’t even have a medical appointment. They were there to meet their buddies, they were there to tell stories, they were there to talk. Those connections become vital. I think we as human beings are meant to live our life connected to others.”
While McDonald knows there are several large social networking sites out there, he believes RallyPoint sits in a unique space that can cater to the very specific needs of the veteran and military communities.
“Those of us who have been in the military want to be connected to people who have had similar experiences,” McDonald says. “Because those experiences come from a set of values which may be different than the rest of society.”
And one person who any vet who joins RallyPoint can connect directly with is McDonald himself. He maintains a profile on the site, and has been answering queries from his fellow vets since he joined. He says he hopes to hear from many more in days to come as RallyPoint continues to grow.