Should We Start Surveying Veterans to Improve VA Services?

Jun 23, 2017

servicesCongressman Tom Rice (R-SC) wants to conduct a nationwide survey of veterans to find out if services need reforming at the Department of Veterans Affairs. He recently introduced the Survey Our Servicemembers Act, legislation that would establish a nationwide, annual survey of veterans’ experiences receiving health care, both through the Department of Veterans Affairs and non-VA providers.

The bill would require the survey be commissioned by an independent organization to gather information about veteran’s experiences with scheduling appointments, wait times, the cost of care, and overall quality of care received.  It’s based on a survey that his office conducted earlier this year.

Below are some findings from his survey.

Obtaining Health Care

  • 82 percent of veterans received care at non-VA facilities in the last 2 years.
  • More than 70 percent of respondent’s rated travel time to a healthcare facility as either extremely important or very important and nearly 74 percent indicated it took less time to travel to a non-VA facility.

Scheduling Appointments

  • More than 25 percent of respondents had to contact the VA facility between 2-5 times to schedule their appointment. But most only had to contact once to schedule their appointment.
  • Depending on the facility, 13-18 percent of those who tried making an appointment at a VA medical center were unable to schedule one.
  • Roughly 30 percent of veterans said they’ve delayed seeking care because of the difficulty of obtaining an appointment.
  • 13-31 percent of veterans were seen within a week of making an appointment, however, 26-46 percent faced wait times longer than a month, depending on the facility.
  • More than 65 percent said it takes fewer days to be days to be seen at non-VA facilities.

Quality of Care

  • Most veterans surveyed rated the care they received at non-VA facilities as “somewhat better” or “much better” than VA care.
  • The quality of healthcare services and communication with providers ranked as more important factors for veterans when it comes to healthcare. They also reported that non-VA facilities were better in both categories.

Cost of Care

  • Most veterans indicated out of pocket costs for services are less at VA facilities.

*Keep in mind that one office completed this survey, and it makes no mention of how many participated in the survey.

The VA Secretary already conducted an assessment outlining areas that need improvement and the legislative and administrative fixes it needs to see.

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