How Can VA Services Be Improved? Ask Veterans What Needs Fixing

One Congressman wants to ask veterans what needs fixing at the VA to make needed reforms at the agency.

One Congressman wants to conduct a nationwide survey of veterans to find out what they feel needs reforming at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Congressman Tom Rice (R-SC) recently introduced the Survey Our Servicemembers Act (H.R. 2758), legislation that would establish a nationwide, annual survey of veterans’ experiences receiving health care, both through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and through non-VA providers.

The bill would require such a survey to be commissioned by an independent organization to gather information on veterans’ experiences with scheduling appointments, wait times, cost of care and overall quality of care received.

The bill is based on a survey that Rice’s office conducted earlier this year. These are some of the findings from that survey.

Obtaining Health Care

  • 82 percent of veterans received care at a non-VA facility in the last two years.
  • The four VA centers where respondents were most likely to seek or receive care were Dorn VA Medical Center, Ralph Johnson VA Medical Center, Myrtle Beach VA Outpatient Clinic, and Florence VA Outpatient Clinic.
  • More than 70% of respondents rated travel time to a health care facility as either extremely important or very important, and nearly 74% indicated it took less time to travel to a non-VA facility.

Scheduling Appointments

  • More than 25% of respondents had to contact the VA facility between two and five times to schedule their appointment. However, the majority of respondents had to contact the VA facility only once to schedule their appointment.
  • Roughly 13% to 18% of those who tried making an appointment at a VA medical center were unable to schedule one, depending on the facility.
  • About 30% of veterans indicated that they have delayed seeking care because of difficulty obtaining an appointment.
  • While about 13% to 31% of veterans were able to be seen within a week of making an appointment, 26% to 46% faced wait times of longer than a month, depending on the facility.
  • Over 65% indicated that it takes fewer days to be seen at non-VA facilities.

Quality of Care

  • A plurality of veterans rated the care they received at non-VA facilities as “somewhat better” or “much better” than VA care.
  • The quality of health care services and communication with providers ranked as the most important factors for veterans when it comes to health care. Veterans reported that non-VA facilities were better in both of these categories.

Cost of Care

  • A majority of veterans indicated that out of pocket costs of services are less at VA facilities.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.