MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) -- The Secretary of Veterans Affairs said he is spearheading a massive restructuring of the department. The move follows a scandal that left more than 100,000 American war veterans waiting for health care. VA Secretary Robert McDonald took over the agency three months ago after his predecessor, Eric Shinseki, resigned.
McDonald says he's determined to make sure American veterans are well cared for.
"This is going to be the largest reorganization of the Department of Veteran Affairs since its establishment," said McDonald. "We're calling it My VA because we want them to think of the department as embracing them and giving them a warm hug a place they can go to get the care they need, a department that is totally veteran centered looking for only one outcome which is good outcomes for veterans."
McDonald said at least 35 people will be fired to begin with. Then, more than 1,000 others could lose their jobs and he plans other disciplinary actions against people responsible for the veteran neglect.
The situation hits home for a Blue Star mother in Madison during Veterans Week and on Veterans Day. Roseanna Cox worries everyday about something bad happening to her son, a veteran who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. She said her son fought bravely in Iraq and now fights a different battle at home. For the last week, Cox has assisted World War II veteran Arthur Wolde.
"Thank you so much," said a young girl to Wolde recently at a ceremony in Madison. Wolde is 97 years old and enjoying being honored and thanked for his service.
While Cox enjoys helping Wolde, she can't help but think about her son who is also a veteran. Cox said her son Manuel Antonio Hernandez, III, spent 14 months in Iraq. Veterans Day is bittersweet for her.
"His way of life is just not the same," she said tearfully.
Cox is miles away from her son and insists he's suffering.
"Everyday that my phone rings and it's my father calling, I don't know if something has happened to my son," Cox said very emotionally. "He suffered from PTSD really, really bad."
She explained in 2008, her son's Humvee barely escaped a direct hit from an improvised explosive device (IED). The blast still sent his vehicle tumbling.
"As my son said, the best way to describe what happened to him, it's like being a rag doll inside of a dryer and just tumbling," Cox said. "And his head went, just hitting the sides of everything, back and forth, back and forth."
She said he told her the Humvee right behind his hit another IED directly. No one survived.
"His survivor guilt is really, really bad," said Cox. "He doesn't sleep at night."
She said getting out of the military was a new battle.
"Getting help has been a nightmare," said Cox. "Just making the phone calls and getting everything now that he's out. It took a year and a half to get an appointment for him to get his brain scan done."
As she escorts Wolde, a veteran enjoying his golden years and deserved recognition for his service, Cox fears her own son has been robbed of his life.
"We owe so much to these soldiers," said Cox. "They go through so much and no jobs, their families are torn apart. And from the familiy side, me as his mother, everyday, I honestly just see my son slowly dying."
Manuel Antonio Hernandez lives in Texas, where he's enrolled in college. He has not been able to hold down a job due to PTSD and his inability to sleep. Hernandez is 27 years old. His mother hopes to see more emphasis on helping veterans transition back to civilian life after returning from war.