The VA has had a lot of bad publicity lately, especially in regards to patient care at VA hospitals. With a seemingly endless stream of cases where neglect at VA hospitals led to the premature death of veterans who otherwise could have defeated their condition or at least been treated more successfully, the VA has been trying to bounce back and keep things under control. There have been attempts to determine if the incidents of neglect are indicative of a disturbing trend at the VA or just unfortunate incidents. A survey conducted by the American Customer Satisfaction Index has found in a survey that they may just be unfortunate incidents, because the VA hospitals have overall been given very high marks in customer satisfaction.
The American Customer Satisfaction Index has conducted numerous surveys for both government and private sector services, and has been known for having accurate and professionally conducted surveys. The VA hospitals
were ranked on a 100 point scale for both inpatient and outpatient care. On inpatient care, the VA was rated 84, and on outpatient care, the VA was rated 82, both of which are considered good scores, especially when compared to their private sector counterparts. Hospitals in the private sector average 80 and 83 on inpatient and outpatient care, respectively. While there could be confounding variables (the type of person who joins the military and thus uses VA hospitals vs. the type of person who chooses not to join up), the findings are at least encouraging to the VA that they are overall doing a fair job.
“Our nation’s veterans deserve the best care, and the ACSI survey results help us better understand how veterans feel about their overall healthcare experience at VA,” VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said. “There is always more work to do, and we are focused on continuous improvement to the care we provide.” While it is very possible that Shinseki actually feels this way, his choice of words reflects exactly what would probably be perceived by most people as the best response possible, and perfectly crafted to be so. However, it’s no wonder that Shinseki has some sweat on the brow in the face of the recent negative press including the backlog, wait times at VA hospitals, and the aforementioned preventable patient deaths.
There are many who see the ACSI survey as an accurate reflection of the quality of care generally provided by the VA to the nation’s veterans. Many of the VA’s employees are veterans themselves, and it stands to reason that they would be interested in doing their best to suppor their own. Joe Davis, the spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said that the ACSI survey, “shows that once veterans get in the door, they appreciate the care and professionalism of the many dedicated VA healthcare employees who come to work every day.” It is interesting that the Veterans of Foreign Wars and The American Legion have often been the first and most harsh critics of the VA on things such as the the disabilities claims backlog and delays in care for veterans, but are often the VA’s most ardent supporters on many other cases.
To this author, this indicates that the most prominent veterans’ organizations are truly in place to do their best to make sure veterans are protected and taken care of in the ways that they are supposed to. The American Legion regularly conducts surveys and polls to determine the quality of healthcare provided at VA hospitals, and they say that the ACSI survey reinforces most of what they hear from veterans. Overall, they say, veterans are very appreciative of the care they receive at the VA and have a lot of good things to say about it.
The counter-argument to this high rate of satisfaction is that the satisfaction rate is in a large way due to the many watchdogs there are over the VA and the efforts made to make sure that VA leaders are held accountable when patients are not given the treatment they need and deserve. Many members of congress feel that the VA has failed to properly address the issues that have led to preventable veterans deaths across the country.