Veterans being treated at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals have given the agency high marks in customer satisfaction, according to a survey conducted by an independent company.
The American Customer Satisfaction Index, which conducts surveys for government and private sector services, rated the VA 84 for inpatient care and 82 for outpatient care on a 100 point scale. Those numbers compare favorably with the private sector hospitals for inpatient and outpatient care, which place 80 and 83, respectively, on the index.
"Our nation's veterans deserve the best care, and the ACSI survey results help us better understand how veterans feel about their overall health care 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."
The department's high marks for customer satisfaction come as welcome news to the V A, which has regularly been flogged by some critics for its disability claims backlog, long wait times, and instances of preventable patient deaths.
Joe Davis, national 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."
The VFW, along with The American Legion and other veterans' service organizations, have been critical of the VA on matters such as the backlog and delays vets have experienced getting appointments and follow-on care. But they have also been among the department's strongest defenders.
"The survey reinforces the good things we hear from veterans about their care," said Jacob Gadd, deputy director of Legion's Veteran Affairs and Rehabilitation Division. The Legion regularly conducts its own surveys of the VA system through town halls, "and the veterans we've met in those ... meetings are appreciative of their care. They have a lot of good things to say."
Gadd said there are always going to be issues with some veterans at VA hospitals around the country, but overall the care they deliver is good.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said he hears positive things about the VA whenever he visits VA medical centers around the country. Sanders chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
"The patients I meet routinely tell me how pleased they are with the quality of care they receive," he said.
House Veterans Affairs Committee Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., was pleased with the VA's positive finish on the index. However, he told Military.com that veterans will only remain satisfied with VA care for as long as they have confidence that their problems are addressed quickly and VA leaders are held accountable when patients fall through the cracks.
Miller has been hammering the VA for failing to properly respond to a number of patient deaths at VA hospitals in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Columbia, S.C., Augusta, Ga., and Memphis, Tenn. The deaths have been linked to mismanagement, Miller says, but officials have not been fired or in any way seriously disciplined.
"We have always known that most veterans are satisfied with their VA care," Miller said. "This is partly attributable to the fact that VA is blessed with numerous oversight watchdogs -- including the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs -- to help highlight and correct problem areas."
-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at email@example.com.