ABC-7 Exclusive: VA director reflects on first year in office, success and disappointments

El Paso VA Director reflects on first...

"Everything is turning the right way, the veterans are more positive and they are taking accountability for themselves," El Paso VA director Mike Amaral said, "The sky is the limit, top three in the country."

Amaral just wrapped up his first year as director of the VA. 

"In my first year, my focus was to work on the self-image of the organization," he said, "things had really been beaten down."

Amaral says work-place moral is on the rise and so are the scheduled appointment. The VA scheduled 96 percent of its appointments within the first 30 days, when Amaral took office, but he strived to reach 99 percent. The director claims the VA has improved it's access, adding, "I believe by this year, we will be very close to the 99 percent."

Although improvements are being made mental health treatment for veterans declined. Amaral says the VA needs to improve on getting the patients seen as frequently as needed. According the the latest data, the average wait time for the past several months show veterans are waiting nine days for treatment.

"We are very well resourced from the government," Amaral said, "But I am lacking the people to spend those resources on."

The VA hit a high point in mental health staffing in 2016 with 116 providers, which include psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists. Amaral says he is still working to fill vacancies within the department. "I want people, but I want the right people," he said. "I want people who are pleasant to work with and who want to work hard."

Although the medical center scored a one star out of five for it's overall performance in 2017, Amaral said he is still set in reaching his goal.

"My goal is to make this a top three facility of its size in the country," he said. Amaral said he made a promise to work as director for at least five years and hopes to reach that goal within that timeframe.