VA has made it a top priority to continuously engage Veterans and their families to improve our VA community care operations, and over the past several weeks, I again had the privilege of hearing directly from Veterans on how VA can better provide care when and where Veterans need it.
“VA continues to focus on increasing access to timely, high-quality care,” says Poonam Alaigh, M.D., acting under secretary for Health. “Taking time to directly listen to Veterans about their experience with VHA’s community care program is a crucial part of our approach to not only improving how VA delivers care, but also in strengthening VA’s relationship with Veterans and all of our stakeholders.”
Throughout March and April, Jake Leinenkugel, White House senior advisor, as well as staff from the Veterans Experience Office, and I led five listening sessions with Veterans around the country, including sessions in Dayton, Ohio, Helena, Montana, Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Phoenix, Arizona.
The goal of the sessions was to gain a better understanding of Veterans’ personal experiences using VA community care, both positive and negative, so we can turn that feedback into action. As part of the conversations, I also had the opportunity to meet with Congressional staff members in the area, state and county Veteran Service Organizations, along with community providers and VA staff.
The meetings were informal in nature, allowing for candid and organic conversations, with dialogue about Veterans’ overall experiences with VA community care, geography, eligibility and care coordination, among other subjects. I simply wanted to listen to Veterans about the subjects most important to them.
I was particularly interested to receive feedback on topics such as barriers to access and the qualities they look for in a clinical provider. In general, we found that Veterans like the care they are receiving but want to make sure VA continues to find providers that are sensitive to unique Veteran needs. Additionally, we heard clearly that Veterans would like more control over the care they receive and would like to customize their health care options around their own needs and preferences.
Building and maintaining a strong relationship with Veterans is the priority for VA and I look forward to continuing our efforts to engage Veterans, their families, VA staff and all of our other stakeholders in shaping the future of VA community care.