Dear Mr. McDonald,
Congratulations on your expected nomination as Secretary of the Veterans Administration. Now for the work.
Based upon my own interactions with the VA for my military disability compensation, I offer the following short diagnosis and areas of focus. (My most recent interaction was 2 hours on the phone with various VA representatives yesterday. The VA is planning on reducing my disability ratings to zero if I don’t support evidence that they still exist. I know this because I received a letter from the non-government, non-profit organization Disabled American Veterans (DAV).)
- Close the say-do gap. All the VA representatives said “thank you for your service” then, almost as quickly, explained why they couldn’t help me. Eliminate the meaningless statement. Additionally, on one phone line as I worked my way through automated recordings, I heard “your phone call is important to us. However, due to heavy call volume we are unable to process your request at this time. Please call back at a better time.” — click. Again, don’t say the phone call is important and hang up on me, just treat it like it’s important.
- Push authority to the people interfacing with the constituents with a mandate to help. In my case, the VA letter went to an old address that has been since updated. The representative could not send the letter to the current address of record. That required a written letter from me to the regional VA office. The representative also could not tell me the contents of the letter even though they could read it. This was after they had verified my identity. The reason? Because I hadn’t received it yet. I’m not sure the representative appreciated the irony that if I’d received the letter I wouldn’t need him to tell me what was in it. The suggested solution from 3 different representatives was to contact the DAV.
- Say “we” not “they.” (Eliminate stove pipes.) I called to make appointments to reverify my disability conditions. I was told that I had called the VHA — the Veterans Health Administration at Bay Pines; not the VBA — the Veterans Benefits Administration at Bay Pines. But isn’t the VHA where the doctors are who see patients? Yes, but I needed to go through the VBA to schedule the appointment since the purpose of the appointment was to validate a compensation claim. Then I would need to take my records from “the VHA” back to “the VBA.” Understand that both these portions of the Veterans Administration are housed in the same Bay Pines campus in St. Petersburg.
Talking with the VA reminded me of Catch-22.