An agency that’s come under fire for its track record when it comes to customer service -- the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs -- is using its revamped Web site and customer relationship management systems as part of an effort to clean up its image.
On Monday -- the day before Veterans Day in the United States -- the agency announced a reorganization designed in part to make it easier for veterans to navigate the sprawling department’s labyrinthine Web sites, and most importantly, to get veterans the help they need, when they need it.
In an announcement on the VA Web site, administration secretary Robert McDonald said the overall restructuring was the largest in the department's history.
The reorganization, dubbed MyVA, aims to provide veterans with "a seamless, integrated and responsive customer service experience -- whether they arrive at VA digitally, by phone or in person," McDonald said. As a former CEO of Procter & Gamble, McDonald is well versed in the importance of providing top quality customer service.
Down to One Password
The VA, which serves 22 million veterans, has been the subject of withering criticism since it was reported earlier this year that dozens of veterans may have died while awaiting treatment at the VA hospital in Phoenix, and appointment records were manipulated to hide the delays.
As part of the restructuring, McDonald said the VA will hire a chief customer service officer and simplify its means of delivering health care and other services. The VA will now use a single customer service structure with a limited number of regional divisions, as opposed to the nine separate regional structures and at least a dozen Web sites that are in use now. Many of these Web sites have their own usernames and passwords.
Eventually, McDonald would like each veteran to have one username and password for all VA services. McDonald hopes to complete the reorganization within a year.
"As VA moves forward, we will judge the success of all our efforts against a single metric: the outcomes we provide for veterans," McDonald said. "We must become more focused on veterans' needs."
The VA has even opened the floor to user suggestions to help make the agency run more smoothly. The MyVA Idea House intranet Web tool went live on Tuesday at VAideaHouse.ideascale.com to gather suggestions to improve services, streamline processes and solve issues for veterans and their families.
The Phoenix VA hospital scandal led to the firing of former VA secretary Eric Shinseki and resulted in a new law making it easier for veterans to get care from local doctors that's paid for by the VA. The law also shortens the appeals process for VA employees who are fired.
McDonald told the CBS News program "60 Minutes" on Sunday that the VA is considering disciplinary action against more than 1,000 employees who might have falsified records or otherwise were involved in the wait-time scandal.
Not everyone is convinced that a bureaucratic overhaul is what’s needed to fix the VA. "New plans, initiatives and organizational structures are all well and good, but they will not produce their intended results until VA rids itself of the employees who have shaken veterans’ trust in the system," said Rep. Jeff Miller, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
Posted: 2014-11-23 @ 2:09pm PT
PROBLEM: DEPENDENCY PAYMENTS ON DISABILITY (BACKGROUND)
In April 2013 I received an increase from 10% to 50% disability effective Sept. 2012. Upon receipt of this increase I received a form to apply for dependency payments. I completed this form and sent it to the VA with all supporting documents where it was received on the 13th of May 2013. To date this dependency status has not been completed. I also know of many others that have taken up to two years for dependency action (both start and stop).
DFAS handles any dependency change within 30 days. Most businesses complete this action by the next pay period. It appears that this dependency action is being handled as a disability claim instead of separately as a dependency claim. This should be a completely different review.
Posted: 2014-11-20 @ 6:48am PT
@Gayle: We commend you for wanting to make a difference. Rather than leaving your phone number in your comment below (which we removed for privacy reasons), you may want to use the 'Contact Us' information on the VA website to let them know you have suggestions. Here's a link:
Mrs. Gayle Dickerson-Brow:
Posted: 2014-11-20 @ 6:33am PT
I have worked at the Department of Veterans Affairs for 38 years and would love to have a face-to-face with Secretary, Robert McDonald. I would be able to discuss the history, culture and provide suggestions/ideas on how to improve service. If only I could access the new website. I work in the Veterans Benefits Administration and can be reached at (202)....
Posted: 2014-11-17 @ 6:03pm PT
The VA has recently been modernizing Call Centers and many other types of applications with CRM solutions.
Kenneth Tinsley, PA:
Posted: 2014-11-13 @ 7:06am PT
Please change the Stop Code :NPT-PMR-Cardiopulmonary 231, 201 & 201-250. Veterans during therapy aren't seen on a day by day / session by session by a physician. We are being charged for a physician presents each time. The day of your consult appointment is the only time we are seen by a physician. Physiologist-like physical therapists carry out the therapy treatments.
Service Connected disabled veterans deserve to have a voice worth listening to. Non-service connected veterans like myself make up the largest group of veterans that served this county and rely on the services of the VA. Most of us pay for our care because we have insurance and we pay federal taxes too.
The rules need to change regarding our co-payments. For example, the co-payment for Cardio-pulmonary Rehabilitation. The code states we are seen by a doctor at each visit costing fifty dollars per session for 36 sessions. Service connected veteran receive rehab for free. Non-service connected veterans without insurance receive this therapy for free. Non-service connected veterans who have insurance are charged fifty dollar per session because most insurance plans don't cover cardio-pulmonary rehab.
I'm a VA retired employee with the same insurance plan I had while working. The government negotiated the terms of the insurance plan. I'm paying for therapy out of my pocket.
For physical therapy of a back injury, the VA charges $15 / session because a physician isn't part of treatment after the consult is approved. Physiologists conduct the cardio-pul treatment for the thirty-six sessions. You only see the physician for the consult. Non-service connected veterans with insurance shouldn't be charged for thirty-six sessions for seeing a doctor.
In other words stop code : NPT-PM&R. Despite the change in FY, the new stop code better defines the workload. Vets should be charged the 36 session as physical therapy.
Thank you ahead of time for reading.
Kenneth Tinsley, Retired Physician Assistant
Thirty-seven years as a VA employee. Now a patient seen at the VA.
David A. Eddy:
Posted: 2014-11-12 @ 8:37am PT
While I have absolute respect for Mr. McDonald's Management abilities based on past performance and his articulation of futuristic goals, this recommendation that will assist some, really misses the mark on the much needed personal type services.
Posted: 2014-11-12 @ 6:06am PT
As a 100% Service Connected disabled veteran I can fill volumes with their mishandling and plain insanity of their actions. Latest is Xanax was disapproved by an Appeal Board as not a FDA approved drug. Even though I get it from my VA hospital for my conditions. If they would only obey and operate under the law set by congress, as intended by congress they would be fantastic. Sorry, I don't believe it will ever be.
Posted: 2014-11-11 @ 7:31pm PT
Good for them! Our vets, especially those who have served overseas, deserve the best and this seems like a step in the right direction. I think bringing in someone to run the agency like a successful business, with a focus on customer service, is the way to go.