Two Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) employees were named finalists for the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America medal, also known as the Sammies. The Sammies, called the “Oscars” of government service, are a highly respected public service honor named for the late founder of the non-profit organization, Partnership for Public Service. The awards align with his vision of a dynamic and innovative federal workforce that meets the needs of the American people.
The finalists for the Sammies were named during Public Service Recognition Week, May 1-7, an annual celebration, also recognized by the President, to honor the country’s many public servants and to show appreciation for their work. VA finalists, Dr. Thomas O’Toole and Anne Barker Dunn, were recognized for their work with homeless Veterans.
“I could not be more proud of Ann Barker Dunn and Dr. Thomas O’Toole,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald. “At a time when the VA is implementing our department-wide MyVA transformation to better serve our Veterans, it is the commitment and dedication of our VA team that leave no doubt in my mind we will succeed. Ann and Thomas embody the I CARE values – Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence – that we strive to live by. I congratulate our finalists and thank all of our employees who are working tirelessly to serve Veterans.”
About VA’s Finalists for the Sammies
- Dr. O’Toole serves as Director, National Center on Homelessness among Veterans for the Veterans Health Administration. Based in Providence, Rhode Island, Dr. O’Toole created two nationwide programs to help high-risk, high-need homeless Veterans receive the comprehensive medical care, housing assistance and social services they need to get off the street and reclaim their lives. While working as a primary care physician at the VA Medical Center in Rhode Island a decade ago, Dr. O’Toole realized that large numbers of homeless veterans and those at risk of winding up on the streets were not receiving the medical care or the housing assistance, food and social services they desperately needed. He responded by establishing a clinic that integrated medical care and support services for Veterans – an initiative that has since expanded into a national program now available at 62 VA medical facilities. Dr. O’Toole followed this successful pioneering effort by creating a second national project now operating at those 62 medical facilities that identifies and helps homeless Veterans who repeatedly need acute medical services.
- Ms. Dunn serves as Deputy Director for the Homeless Programs Office in Washington. Ms. Dunn reduced recidivism among Veterans caught up in the criminal justice system and lowered their chances of becoming homeless by providing housing, job counseling and mental health and drug treatment services. For years, Veterans who had encounters with the criminal justice system, often as a result of mental health or substance abuse problems, did not receive any special assistance. Many ended up homeless or in prison, and when freed from jail, had no support to help them reenter society and lead productive lives. Today, two programs led by Ms. Dunn and her team are helping Veterans who have had problems with the law receive the assistance and treatment they need.
“This is a great honor for these public servants,” said David J. Shulkin, VA’s Under Secretary for Health, whose administration employs the two finalists. “Both of these employees have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help VA’s most vulnerable Veterans. We applaud their efforts and commitment and are pleased that their work has been recognized.”
Dr. O’Toole, Ms. Dunn and other finalists for the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America medal were recognized May 3 in Washington. Medal recipients will be announced September 20 at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington.
Information about the awards may be found at servicetoamericamedals.org/. Information about the Partnership for Public Service may be found at ourpublicservice.org/. The President’s announcement proclaiming Public Service Recognition Week may be found at www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/04/29/presidential-proclamation-public-service-recognition-week-2016. Bios on the winners may be found at servicetoamericamedals.org/honorees/view_profile.php?profile=460 and servicetoamericamedals.org/honorees/view_profile.php?profile=431