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Southeast Missouri Scores High In Veteran Medical Care, Results Of Sen. McCaskill Survey Announced

Lindsey Grojean/KRCU

On Friday, Sen. Claire McCaskill visited the Missouri Veteran’s Home in Cape Girardeau to announce the results collected over the past year from her statewideVeteran’s Customer Satisfaction Program. The confidential secret shopper survey reported southeast Missouri VA medical facilities to have increased satisfaction ratings by patients compared to previous years.


On The Program’s History

The Veteran’s Customer Satisfaction Program was the result of a 2010 scandal at the John Cochran VA Facility in St. Louis, when some dental surgery instruments were discovered to not be sanitized before they were used. After this incident, McCaskill held a series of meetings.

She received many suggestions, including starting a Blue Ribbon Commission, having a hearing with the VA, or simply talking to the VA. McCaskill disagreed, and thought they should speak directly to the veterans.

“Instead of trying to get answers out of the VA bureaucracy, why don’t we, on an annual basis, ask them to help us to get surveys directly to the veterans who are using the facilities?” said McCaskill. “And then we would take all those surveys at the end of the year, we would turn them over to the VA, and say ‘This is what your customers think.’”

They then launched the program in 2011, constructed a survey of around 10 questions, and made it available to veterans in the St. Louis area. Now, the program is available online, and covers the entire state. It’s been available in southeast Missouri for four years.

McCaskill says the survey isn’t just a way to keep facilities accountable for bad work, but to keep track of the good they do as well.

“I think there’s a lot of negativity surrounding the VA, and I don’t think there’s enough good news that gets out there about the good work that the VA is doing,” said McCaskill.



Veteran’s Customer Satisfaction Program Results

Participation in the survey was noted to increase this year, compared to last year.

Results gathered in southeast Missouri consider services provided at the John J. Pershing VA Medical Center in Poplar Bluff and various medical clinics throughout the area. McCaskill said overall, these locations did incredibly well, and veterans reported satisfaction levels that exceeded 78%.

She first explained the measure most important to her, which questions the likeliness of a veteran to recommend the facility to another veteran.

“Veterans love their country, they love their family, and they love other veterans. And what they want to do is take care of other veterans,” said McCaskill.

At the program’s start, 25% of veterans said they would not recommend the facility to another veteran. This year, that percentage dropped to 12%.

In the most recent survey, 90% of veterans agreed to some degree that, at the time of their visit, medical facilities were clean. McCaskill says during the first year, 9% of veterans said the facilities were not up-to-par on cleanliness, a number which dropped to 1% in the past year.

The difficulty in scheduling an appointment has also experienced a large drop in percentage, from 27% to 9%.

“The biggest gains were seen in ease of scheduling appointments, that went up 12%, and communication between VA staff and veterans, that went up 8%,” said McCaskill.

McCaskill also recognized the leadership and dedication of VA medical staff throughout southeast Missouri.

“I think, for Memorial Day, it’s sometimes important for us not only to recognize, with affection and respect, all of our veterans, but also to recognize the people who care for them.”

Across the state, 40% of veterans in the first year of the survey said they wouldn’t recommend VA medical services to another veteran. That number has dropped down to around 15%.



The Future Of The Program

McCaskill said at the start, they thought they would only run the program for a year or two to solve the problem in St. Louis. But after receiving positive results, they decided to continue it.

“We can always improve, and we always want to improve,” said McCaskill. “We realize that, year after year, this is making a difference. It’s actually having an impact on the culture in the facilities. It’s keeping the VA staff on their toes, knowing these surveys are coming every year.”

The Veteran’s Customer satisfaction program is expected to expand within the next year to keep track of the VA Choice Program. The VA Choice Program gives veterans the option to receive private care if they can’t get in at a reasonable time, typically resulting from living in a rural facility, or out of the necessity of seeing a specialist.

McCaskill also advised against turning the VA into an all-private system. She said they should continue to keep the resources of the VA system, to keep having surveys like this, and to keep making it as good as they can possibly make it because, as she said, “Nobody deserves it more than our veterans.”

McCaskill says she is unaware of any other members of Congress that host a survey like the one in the Veteran’s Customer Satisfaction Program.