Since his appointment late last year, Veterans Administrator Harry N. Walters has been delivering a pep talk to the agency's 221,000 employes.
Walters had the VA information office videotape his first meeting with employes, where he explained his management style. Copies of that tape have been shipped to all field offices for viewing.
In his short, extemporaneous talk, Walters comes across like Knute Rockne sending his team out to win one for the Gipper.
He describes his days as a fullback on West Point's undefeated "Lonely End" football team in 1959 and concludes by repeating a tale told by a California television evangelist about a small boy who succeeds through positive thinking.
Walters' message is simple: America loves winners and that's what the VA and veterans are.
As part of his campaign to raise employes' morale, which was near rock bottom last year, Walters has adopted the slogan: "America is #1 Thanks to our Veterans." He jots the slogan on most of his correspondence, aides said, and recently asked veterans' groups to underwrite the cost of printing thousands of red-white-and-blue bumper stickers that carry that message.
ENTHUSIASTIC, BUT NOT NAIVE . . . The day after Walters was confirmed, the VA's Performance Review Board asked Walters to approve its recommended bonuses for career executives for 1982.
If he didn't sign immediately, the board warned, Walters would jeopardize his executives' chances of qualifying for presidential awards in 1983.
Walters declined to sign, and instead appointed a team of three respected VA bureaucrats to investigate.
They discovered that between the time that Robert P. Nimmo resigned as VA administrator and Walters took over a number of executives had bullied the board into recommending huge bonuses.
One executive, who reportedly was to receive an $8,000 bonus, had been present when the board voted, sources said.
As a result of the probe, bonuses for 10 of the VA's central office staff have been delayed, pending a new evaluation.
HELPING WOMEN VETS . . . Calling women veterans "unseen and unsung heroines," Reps. Robert W. Edgar (D-Pa.) and Don Edwards (D-Calif.) have introduced legislation to create an Advisory Committee on Women Veterans for the VA.
Edgar held a congressional subcommittee hearing yesterday to hear testimony about the need for the group. Lynda Van Devanter, an Army nurse in Vietnam who is now the national women's director for the Vietnam Veterans of America, said most women vets have been denied basic medical care by the VA. At one VA facility, only 27 percent of female patients routinely received pelvic exams, only 40 percent received breast exams and none of the women had received pap smears for cervical cancer, she said. She added that the VA also has failed to provide mental health care for women.
Van Devanter said the VA needs to improve its service-related disability benefits for women and begin studying the effects of the defoliant Agent Orange on women who served in Vietnam. None of the VA's current Agent Orange studies involve women, even though exposure to the dioxin contained in the herbicide has caused birth defects in the offspring of female animals.
Dr. Donald L. Custis, the VA's chief medical director, said the agency issued new guidelines to its medical centers in January that require them to provide complete physical examinations for women. But he said the VA supports the idea of creating a women's advisory committee.
EXTRA MONEY . . . At the urging of Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee has recommended that Congress add $150 million to the VA's budget for fiscal 1984 for jobs programs for veterans. The committee is considering legislation to increase GI Bill educational benefits or to create an emergency retraining and on-the-job training program for unemployed veterans.