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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Sen. Claire McCaskill: Honoring our Veterans this Memorial Day

  • My dad was a World War II veteran. When I was growing up, he made sure we understood the sacrifices of those who served, and how that service affects a family, and a community, for a lifetime.
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  • My dad was a World War II veteran. When I was growing up, he made sure we understood the sacrifices of those who served, and how that service affects a family, and a community, for a lifetime.
    That’s why I’ve worked tirelessly to make sure today’s veterans are receiving the highest quality care, and the benefits they’ve earned, when they return to civilian life.
    Amid continued backlogs and troubling allegations about secret wait times and veterans who may have died awaiting care, getting this right for our veterans—more and more of whom are returning after a decade of war— is critical.
    I’ve learned the best way to figure out whether veterans are receiving the quality of care they need and deserve is simply by talking to them directly. Not by asking VA officials, but by asking veterans themselves what’s working for them and what’s not.
    And I’m proud that’s what we’ve been doing in Missouri for the past several years. In 2011, I launched the Veterans’ Customer Satisfaction Program (VCSP)—a confidential secret shopper survey that gives thousands of Missouri veterans an opportunity to offer direct, meaningful feedback on the quality of service they receive at their local VA facility.
    This secret shopper program—which my office launched after a series of incidents called into question the care provided at the St. Louis VA Medical Center, John Cochran Division—brings together veteran leaders, the VA, and my office to address the frustrations of veterans, assess the quality of customer care they receive, and seek solutions where they identify problems.
    The surveys come from the hands of veterans directly to my office, with the help of veterans’ service organizations like the American Legion and VFW, as well as other groups that do such a great job of serving our veterans. To me, these surveys are the best, most valuable indication of what care is being provided at Missouri VA facilities. I think other parts of the country could learn a lesson from this effort.
    This week, I’m announcing a new round of results from the program. The surveys—over the course of 9 reports in 3 regions—have so far found that 61 percent of veterans rated their overall experience with the VA Medical Centers as Excellent or Above Average. When asked if they would recommend their VA facility to other veterans, an average of 78 percent have said “Yes.”
    These results, among others, show we’ve made real progress, but there is much more work to do, and I won’t stop working to continue to get those numbers up.
    I’m very troubled by recent reports of alleged mistreatment and misconduct at the VA facility in Phoenix and at others around the country. Appropriately, the VA’s independent watchdog is now investigating this matter. It’s critical that we understand what happened and why so we can address the root cause of any problems that are uncovered. And once the investigation is done, if anyone is found to have mistreated our veterans, they should lose their jobs.
    Page 2 of 2 - My father’s service had an enormous influence on my career in public service—and in my time in the Senate, I’ve worked to improve the quality of life for veterans and their families. As a former State Auditor, I’ve also pushed for transparency and accountability— leading the charge to reform management of Arlington National Cemetery, and working for reforms to the Pentagon’s troubled POW/MIA recovery program. We’ve passed a 21st Century GI Bill, and we’ve vastly improved resources and accessibility of mental health services.
    But as long as we have veterans, we need to continue pushing to ensure they get the care and the benefits they’ve earned.
    This Memorial Day, we honor the men and women who have bravely served this country. We owe them an unknowable debt of gratitude, beginning with swift access to the quality of care they deserve. And that’s a goal I won’t stop fighting for.
    U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is the daughter of a World War II veteran, and a founding member of the Senate Veterans Jobs Caucus.
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