Survey Shows Trust Rises Among Veteran Patients at Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center

Seal displayed on the front of the Veterans Affairs Department building
A seal is displayed on the front of the Veterans Affairs Department building in Washington on June 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

PLAINS TWP. — Russell Lloyd, director of the Department of Veterans Affairs Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center, on Thursday said he believes the staff at the center have shown their dedication to the veterans they serve.

"Trust is not a characteristic which can be demanded, but one that must be earned," Lloyd said. "Our staff is committed to the demonstration of integrity, compassion, advocacy, respect and excellence to our veterans. I'm proud that our veterans recognize our commitment to their well-being and entrust us with their care."

On Thursday, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that veteran trust in Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center has risen to 94.3% — up from 87.9% in 2018 (the first year since VA began conducting this survey). Additionally, nationwide trust in VA outpatient care has increased to 91.8% — up from 85.6% in 2018.

The findings are based on a survey of veteran patients who received VA health care in the past 90 days. Within one week of using VA services, these veterans were asked whether they trusted VA for their health care needs across a variety of categories — including scheduling an appointment, health care visits, in-person pharmacy, mail-order pharmacy, labs/imaging and veteran safety.

Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacey Garrity, a veteran and a critic of the local VA, issued a statement about the VA survey results:

"More veterans than ever before have access to VA care now due to the PACT Act, and they deserve the absolute best care possible.

"I'm glad the Wilkes-Barre VA implemented improvements at their facility after many requests from myself, U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser and U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, but there is still work to be done to make sure the brave men and women who sacrificed so much for our great nation are taken care of.

"Every veteran in the VA's care deserves nothing less than to be treated with dignity and respect and shown gratitude for their service."

The VA said the survey mirrors the findings of recent independent studies. According to Medicare's latest nationwide survey of patients, VA hospitals outperformed non- VA hospitals on all 10 core patient satisfaction metrics — including overall hospital rating, communication with doctors, communication about medication, willingness to recommend the hospital and more.

VA health care has also consistently outperformed non- VA care in peer-reviewed studies, overall quality ratings, and affordability for veterans.

Today, VA is delivering more care and more benefits to more veterans than ever before in the nation's history, setting an all-time record for health care provided in 2023.

As veteran trust in VA has increased, more veterans have also begun to choose VA care. VA has enrolled 401,006 veterans in VA health care over the past 365 days — 30% more than the 307,831 it enrolled the previous year. This is the highest number of enrollees in a single year in at least the past five years at VA, and nearly a 50% increase over pandemic-level enrollment in 2020.

"We at VA work to earn the trust of veterans every day, in every part of the country, every time they come to us for their care," said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. "We're proud that more than 91% of veterans now trust VA health care, but we still have work to do. By measuring veteran trust, we can not only learn what we're doing well at VA, we can also learn how to get better."

VA Under Secretary for Health Shereef Elnahal, M.D. said delivering world-class health care begins with trust.

"Whenever a Veteran walks into a VA facility, we want them to know that we are going to take care of them," Elnahal said. "That's the standard to which we hold ourselves, and we'll never settle for anything less."

VA's historic health care enrollment has been made possible by the bipartisan PACT Act — signed into law by President Biden as a part of his Unity Agenda for the nation — which has allowed VA to expand VA health care and benefits to millions of Veterans.

VA is also conducting the most aggressive outreach campaign in its history, including hosting more than 2,600 events since the enactment of the PACT Act, launching a $16 million-plus advertising campaign, using public service announcements, and — for the first time ever — sending text messages to veterans encouraging them to enroll in VA health care.

VA is continuing these vigorous outreach efforts throughout 2024, with more than 550 in-person events already scheduled for this year.

VA recently expanded health care eligibility for millions of veterans nationwide, years earlier than called for by the PACT Act. As of March 5, all veterans who were exposed to toxins and other hazards while serving in the military and meet certain requirements became eligible to enroll directly in VA health care. This means that all veterans who served in the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Global War on Terror, or any other combat zone after 9/11 can enroll directly in VA health care without first applying for VA benefits.

Additionally, veterans who never deployed but were exposed to toxins or hazards while training or on active duty in the United States are also eligible to enroll. VA also recently expanded health care to all World War II veterans.


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