VFW Magazine — August 2017
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Issues Up Front
Kari Williams

Veterans: ‘Fix — Don’t Dismantle’ — VA System

A VFW survey of nearly 11,000 veterans shows that an overwhelming majority of respondents want to see VA health care repaired and rejuvenated rather than junked in favor of private care.

VFW will “continue to debunk and reject radical policy proposals” that would negatively affect progress the VA has made, according to Our Care 2017: A Report Evaluating Veterans Health Care.

The VFW survey, conducted between Sept. 20 and Oct. 20, 2016, asked 10,801 veterans questions related to the following categories:

• Improvements to the VA health care system to better serve veterans.

• Evaluation of improvement at local VA health care facilities.

• Satisfaction with individual VA health care experiences.

• Self-reported wait times.

• Factors when choosing a health care provider.

• Locations veterans prefer to receive most of their health care.

In March, then-VFW Commander-in- Chief Brian Duffy said the “most important takeaway” from the survey is that the majority of respondents do not want to dismantle VA. Duffy said he believes that VA is on the right track, but there still is a lot of work to do. Hiring more doctors, holding people accountable, improving customer service and making VA programs and systems more userfriendly top the list.

VFW, according to Duffy, is willing to work with the White House to make these goals a reality.

“All things are possible with the right information, focus and authority,” Duffy said, “and the VFW is ready to help the new White House Office of American Innovation succeed in ensuring the VA is able to provide high-quality and accessible care to our nation’s wounded, ill and injured veterans.”

The Trump administration, in March, announced the creation of the Office of American Innovation to bridge the gap between government and the private sector.

When asked how veterans would improve the VA health care system, 92 percent of respondents to the VFWproduced survey stated they would like to see VA’s deficiencies fixed. Five percent would like to see it dismantled, 2 percent did not categorize their response and 1 percent would like veterans to receive a universal health care card.

Deficiencies that respondents singled out include “a shortage of health care providers, inadequate customer service, waiting too long or having to travel too far for their care and bureaucratic processes and systems [that] don’t make much sense to them,” according to the report.

Thirty-eight percent of respondents said that improvements are needed at their local VA facility, although 41 percent reported that they have seen improvements at their local VA. Of those who noticed improvements, they believe customer service is better, along with shorter wait times and “capital infrastructure changes,” according to the survey.

For veterans who felt improvements still need to be made, their concerns focused on the number of doctors, wait times and travel for appointments.

However, the report states that selfreported wait times actually got better. Compared to self-reported wait times in 2015, “the number of veterans who report receiving an appointment between seven days, eight to 14 days and 15 to 30 days increased, while those reporting appointment wait-times more than 30 days decreased.”

Survey respondents also noted that quality of care is most important in choosing a health care provider.

To view the full report, and other VFW reports, visit www.vfw.org/VAWatch.

EMAIL kwilliams@vfw.org