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VA Sec. Denis McDonough meets with veterans in Columbia County

Antonio Delgado and Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough in Columbia County
Ashley Hupfl
Antonio Delgado and Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough in Columbia County

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough made a series of stops in upstate New York Monday.

In Hudson following a stop in Kingston, McDonough says New York is providing “dynamic solutions” to offer services to veterans, such as the VA working jointly with contracted staff to provide services. He says he has been touring the country to experience how states are providing aid.

McDonough previously served as former President Obama’s chief of staff from 2013 to 2017. He was confirmed in February, only the second non-veteran to lead the department. He joined Democratic Congressman Antonio Delgado of the 19th district in Hudson.

"Well, spending a lot of time on the road and it's great to get out to see especially what's happening in the field, especially as a non-veteran myself, I want to make sure that I'm getting out and seeing precisely what veterans are exploring. Why precisely here there's two reasons," McDonough said. "One, Mr. Delgado inviting me. I'm getting invitations from members of Congress and I'm spending a lot of time because Congress is such an important partner in our ability to care for our vets and provide timely access to benefits for our vets.”

McDonough is overseeing the administration of COVID-19 vaccines to many of the 18 million veterans across the nation.

He first visited the Hudson Valley Center for Veteran Reintegration in Kingston Monday morning. After touring the Columbia County Veterans' Service Agency, McDonough toured the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center.

He says some the Biden administration’s priorities are understanding the services needed for the increasing number of women veterans and focusing on mental health services for those at risk.

“I'm looking at at mental health. I was particularly impressed at the satisfaction levels that we're hearing from veterans from the Kingston facility for access to mental health, obviously a very huge priority for President Biden and therefore it's a priority for me of course," he said.

For years, the VA has faced criticism for excessive wait times for veterans seeking medical care. Delgado says streamlining services is vital.

A lot of things we're focusing on right now had to do a better coordination between the federal state, local governments and making sure that we're really figuring out how to create a more streamlined process as we move forward," Delgado said. "And I think if we can get that right, then our veterans will be a lot better for it."