ST. CLOUD -- After visiting with staff of the St. Paul Veterans Benefits Administration yesterday (Thursday) Veterans Affairs Secretary, Robert McDonald stopped at the St. Cloud VA today (Friday).

The St. Cloud VA has faced many set backs over the past five years, numerous medical providers quitting, low employee moral and inadequate care are just a few of the problems it has struggled to resolve.

The theme of the conference was progress. McDonald gave updates on how the VA's national progress over the past year as improved as well as updates on the St. Cloud VA's progress.

McDonald says nationally the VA's capacity for care has increased by building more clinics, extending clinic hours to include evenings and weekends and hiring more staff.

Over the past year the VA has nationally hired more the 1,400 doctors, 2,300 nurses and added more than 2 million square feet of space to its clinics.

In St. Cloud, since April 2014 they've hired nearly 450 employees. The St. Cloud VA treated a record breaking 31,000 unique patients since last year, this is a 2% increase from the previous year.

In St. Cloud a main priority has been to hire more employees and expand it's facilities. McDonald says so far the facility has been expanded by 40,000 square feet to include an inpatient psych unit, new rehabilitation clinic, new infusion clinic, renovations to the community living center and plans to finish the lease to expand the Bernard Outpatient Clinic.

McDonald says wait times at St. Cloud have gone down and average better than the national wait times.

During the conference Mcdonald touched on a new program that puts veterans needs first.

"The initative is called My VA, it's about reorganizing the department around veterans needs, looking at everything through the eyes of the veteran verses from the eyes of the department." --Mcdonald

Based on feedback from employees, congress members and veterans the My VA program focuses on a five strategy plan.

The plan includes improvements for veteran and employee experience. It also focuses on improving internal support services, creating strategic partnerships and creating a culture of continuous improvements.

Mcdonald says, "we have a lot of hard work to do but the good thing is the mission is very clear, to care for those who have already defended our freedom and protected us."

Senator Amy Klobuchar weighed in after a stakeholders lunch held before Friday's conference. Klobuchar says the Secretary will need congressional support to help achieve his goals for expanding the VA both nationally and locally in St. Cloud.

"He has a bunch of bills that have bipartisan support that he wants passed by Memorial Day that we think will make a difference." --Senator Klobuchar