More veterans are giving a thumbs up to how they are treated when seeking Department of Veterans Affairs health care, according to the annual "Our Care" survey released Friday by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
And they are feeling positive so far about the new Mission Act, with its private-care options, which went into effect in June, it found.
The survey of nearly 7,000 VFW members showed 74% reported seeing improvements at their local VA, compared to 64% in 2018. And 91% said they would recommend VA care to other veterans, compared to 80% in 2018.
The VA still has a long way to go on a range of issues, but the overall trend is in the right direction, said VFW National Commander William J. "Doc" Schmitz, who was a door gunner and crew chief in Vietnam.
"Veterans turn to VA for high-quality, individualized care, but there is always room for improvement, especially in the areas of access to quality care inside VA medical facilities and outside in the communities," Schmitz said in a statement.
Veterans who are eligible for VA care but do not use the system cited varying reasons in the survey.
Those veterans "either had additional options within their community; had a bad experience with the VA health care system; or were turned off from the benefit by the preponderance of bad stories related to delivery of VA care," the survey states.
It also found a gender difference among veterans over using VA health care.
"When comparing VA health care usage of eligible veterans by gender, female veterans were less likely to report they used VA health care [70%] than male veterans [82%]," the survey states.
When it came to the types of VA health care services used, about 86% reported using VA health benefits for primary care; 75% used specialty care; 31% used mental health care; and 27% used emergency care.
In addition, about 77% of veterans reported using VA pharmacies to receive prescription medication, the survey found.
The survey also appeared to back up the report to Congress earlier this week by Dr. Richard Stone, executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, on implementation of the Mission Act, which went into effect June 6 to expand private-care options for veterans.
In testimony to the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health, Stone said that the fears initially expressed by the VFW and other veterans service organizations that the Mission Act would lead to the privatization of VA health care had not been realized.
Although more than one million veterans have consulted with the VA about private care, there has been no mass exodus of veterans from VA health care thus far, he said, adding that enrollments in VA health care actually increased.
The VFW survey found that "the innovations over the past year may have expanded non-VA care options, but the response has been more veterans enrolling in the VA for more care and choosing to receive that care through VA, not an outside provider," Schmitz said.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.