Sen. McCaskill gives veterans a chance to voice their opinions

McCaskill announced that she is expanding the Veterans Customer Satisfaction Program to Truman Veterans Hospital in Columbia
Saturday, October 29, 2011 | 4:03 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Local veterans will get a chance to speak up about the treatment they receive at Truman Veterans Hospital through the Veterans Customer Satisfaction Program.

Sen. Claire McCaskill announced Saturday that she is expanding the program to Columbia to ensure that veterans receive the quality care they deserve.

Veterans can take the survey for the next 90 days. At the end of the survey period, McCaskill’s office will present the results and recommendations to administrators at the hospital, who will address any issues within 30 days.

After 30 days, the process will start again, and the results of each survey will be compared to monitor improvement, McCaskill said.

“This will be a continuing, rolling process,” McCaskill said. “It’s almost like a report card being given every three months.”

McCaskill’s office created the program a year ago in response to complaints about the John Cochran Veterans Affairs Medical Center in St. Louis. The major issue was concerns of unsanitary equipment.

VA announced in 2010 that nearly 2,000 veterans were potentially exposed to HIV and hepatitis at John Cochran due to improperly sterilized dental equipment.

McCaskill said a major difference between the first survey and the second survey was the willingness of those surveyed to recommend the facility to other veterans. This has increased from 58 percent of veterans saying they would recommend others to seek treatment at John Cochran to 81 percent. The perceived respect shown to veterans increased from 70 percent to 88 percent, she said.

Kimberly Tatham, the state commander representing Disabled American Veterans in Missouri, said there does not seem to be as much room for improvement at Truman Veterans Hospital.

Tatham stayed at the hospital for a week recently, after making rounds at John Cochran, and was impressed with everything from the restrooms to the amount of respect the staff showed veterans.

Even the smallest amount of improvement, said Tatham, is encouraging and will make the program worthwhile to veterans.

McCaskill said the only additional cost to the government is the time her staff spends working on the program. Her office devises the surveys with help from volunteer organizations, prints the surveys and processes the results.

Part of the reason the program is so successful, McCaskill said, is that it is a way to provide communication between the administrators and the veterans without going through bureaucratic red tape.

McCaskill, while hopeful other senators will adopt the program for their states, does not want to see the program go national. Once something becomes a national initiative, she said, somebody “creates a payroll” and “finds new ways to mess it up.”

McCaskill’s program is in St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia.  

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