Sen. Claire McCaskill says veterans’ satisfaction with VA improving

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO — U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri was in Cape Girardeau Friday afternoon to share results of a survey addressing how Missouri veterans feel about the service they are getting from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Democratic senator visited Missouri Veteran’s Home to announce the results of her Veterans’ Customer Satisfaction Program, a secret shopper survey that allows veterans to provide confidential feedback on their visits to VA medical facilities. The program surveys veterans in five regions: Poplar Bluff, Southwest Missouri, St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia.

Nearly 1,200 veterans responded to the survey, and the feedback was generally positive.

“I think there’s an awful lot of negativity sometimes around the VA, and I don’t think there’s sometimes enough good news,” said McCaskill. “When we began the survey, 1 in 4 veterans said they would not recommend the facilities to another veteran —25 percent. This year, that number has dropped to 12.”

Veterans in Poplar Bluff who were surveyed showed the most widespread satisfaction, according to a news release from McCaskill’s office. Meanwhile, veterans in Southwest Missouri had satisfaction levels of more than 78 percent in nine out of 10 categories. Veterans in St. Louis reported that facilities there are improving in cleanliness, wait times and other areas, while nearly 75 percent of veterans surveyed in Kansas City said they are satisfied with getting necessary care and wait times. Finally, veterans in Columbia who were surveyed had satisfaction levels of more than 80 percent when it came to ease of access, cleanliness and respect, the news release says.

 

McCaskill’s Veterans’ Customer Satisfaction Program launched in 2011 after the John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis sent letters to more than 1,800 veterans alerting them they may have contracted hepatitis and HIV because of improperly cleaned dental instruments.

Although the survey shows generally positive feedback on VA medical facilities in recent years, McCaskill told Local 6 there’s always room for improvement.  She said that’s why she voted in favor of the VA MISSION Act, which passed the U.S. Senate 92-5 on Wednesday and is awaiting President Donald Trump’s signature. The president had said in the past he would sign it into law.

Among other things, the VA MISSION Act would replace the Veterans Choice Program with a new community care program that expands veterans’ eligibility for outside care by removing distance and time requirements.

For example, under the Veterans Choice Program, veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility can receive covered care at a local provider. Under the new act, veterans who live less than 40 miles away from a VA facility can still receive covered treatment at an outside provider, with approval from the VA.

“So, it does open it more to privatization, but it is not any way a mandate and this will not bring about the failure of the VA system, McCaskill said.

Air Force veteran Walter Wildman, of Cape Girardeau, said he believes the VA MISSION Act will be beneficial. But, he said he’s happy with the service he’s already receiving.

“The services I get, and the attention to detail, and the followup —they’re not afraid to outsource if they can’t provide a service,” said Wildman. “It just works very well for me.”

To view full summaries of each region surveyed, click on the following links: Poplar Bluff, Southwest Missouri, St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia.

For veterans interested in offering their own confidential feedback on their VA visits, visit www.mccaskill.senate.gov/vcsp.

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