VA clerk's bright idea leads to White House visit

President Obama meets with winner of contest on how to reduce federal government waste

A Veterans Affairs Department clerk met with President Barack Obama at the White House Dec. 21 as a reward for her idea on how the VA can save money.

Nancy Fichtner, a support clerk at the VA hospital in Grand Junction, Colo., won the Securing Americans Value and Efficiency (SAVE) Award for her idea on how to cut waste at VA medical centers, according to the White House.

Partially used medical supplies, such as inhalers and eye drops, used at VA hospitals are thrown away when veterans are discharged, according to White House officials. Fichtner’s idea is to find a way to let patients to take those supplies with them after being discharged.

“Often, veterans would have to go right back to the pharmacy to refill what was discarded,” Obama said during the award ceremony. “So the VA is paying twice; it’s waste, plain and simple. And thanks to Nancy, and to [Veterans Affairs] Secretary [Eric] Shinseki and the folks at Veterans Affairs, we’re putting a stop to it. The change is already under way.”

Fichtner’s idea was chosen from more than 38,000 submissions, according to the White House. The contest was open to federal employees. Ideas were submitted through an online form at www.SaveAward.gov.

“Of course, Nancy’s proposal was just one of many great ideas that came to us,” Obama said. “We’ve already begun to implement a host of suggestions made through the SAVE contest. And while promoting electronic paystubs or scheduling Social Security appointments online or re-purposing unused government supplies may not be the most glamorous reforms in history, when taken together, these small changes can add up; they add up to a transformation of how government works.”

The SAVE Award will be an annual event, Obama said.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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