VA findings on patient satisfaction are questionable

Daily News Article - October 28, 2016


1. In a 2014 investigative report, The Arizona Republic revealed that 40 military veterans died while on a secret waiting list at the Phoenix, Ariz., Veterans Administration medical center. More than 1,400 others lingered on the same list, waiting to receive medical care. The secret waiting list was created by officials to hide the long waits for care our veterans endured.
Dennis Wagner, the Arizona Republic reporter who wrote the expose, attempted to follow up this year.
a) How do officials at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) say medical care and service for our veterans should be evaluated?
b) What evidence do VA officials give to back up their claim that VA hospitals treat patients better than non-government hospitals?

2. For how long has reporter Dennis Wagner been attempting to obtain proof from VA officials of their claims of great service?

3. What does the reporter conclude about the way the VA evaluates the quality of medical care it provides to our veterans? Be specific.

4. For what reason does the VA say that measuring wait times to receive medical treatment is unfair? — What do officials claim is the better way to demonstrate what they say is the good quality of the services they provide?

5. What is the problem with the ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) VA officials use to back up their claim that Veterans give the VA higher satisfaction ratings than patients at private hospitals?

6. What does the ACSI survey on overall public satisfaction with key federal agencies including the Department of Veterans Affairs note about the survey results and the VA?

7. In May, VA Secretary McDonald gave an interview to the Christian Science Monitor. Addressing the concern over the amount of time it takes for a veteran to even see a doctor, he said, “When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? What’s important is, ‘What’s your satisfaction with the experience?’”
How would you refute this assertion?

8. In an interview with The Arizona Republic in May, when asked whether current appointment data is accurate, Assistant Deputy Undersecretary Thomas Lynch said: “...One way to put anybody to sleep, including Congress — and to frustrate them in the process — is to try to explain our mechanisms for measuring wait times. We’re trying to change the message to patient satisfaction.”
How would you respond to this assertion?

CHALLENGE: Visit the websites for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump.
a) How does each candidate propose to solve the corruption and incompetence at the Department of Veterans Affairs?
b) Which candidate do you think will do a better job of fixing the problems at the VA? Explain your answer.