McCaskill expands veteran survey coverage to Columbia

The survey allows veterans to reflect on care at VA medical centers.

A survey that gauges the effectiveness of veteran care and assistance will be expanded to Columbia, according to a news release from Sen. Claire McCaskill’s office.

The Veterans Customer Satisfaction Program, a program started in St. Louis that later spread to Kansas City, seeks to provide an outlet for veterans receiving care at VA medical centers to reflect upon the services, according to the news release.

“What we’re doing is putting the power back into the hands of veterans and ensuring that we make good on the promises made to those who served,” McCaskill said in a news release. “My goal is to have an open, transparent program that holds our VA medical centers accountable for providing the best healthcare possible to our veterans.”

The survey, available both online and in print, asks questions regarding the easiness and effectiveness of scheduling and going through with appointments at VA facilities.

Steven Gaither, Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital spokesman, said the survey works as a way to communicate between veterans, VA centers and state agencies. Local agents work to generate feedback that is compiled into a report then shared with McCaskill’s staff and at various VA centers.

“You know, as an organization, we welcome that feedback in the care that we provide,” Gaither said. “We feel pretty confident that that feedback will be positive.”

Eugene O’Loughlin, Missouri Veterans Commission service officer supervisor, helps with the administrative side of assisting veterans in the Missouri VA system. Services officers work as liaisons of sorts between the VA and the veterans.

O’Loughlin said there are huge differences between the veterans themselves. He said post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological diseases surface more quickly now due to soldiers being more aware of these conditions.

“Back in World War II and the Korean War, there was a line drawn in the sand: we were on this side, the bad guys were on the other side,” O’Loughlin said. “The two wars that are going on right now, you have to ask, ‘How do you get prepared for walking down the street and having the car blow up next to you?’ There’s more guerrilla warfare now.”

O’Loughlin said the main area lacking in veteran care is mental health. Psychology and conflict have become entwined particularly in the recent Persian Gulf War.

According to the United States Department of Veteran Affairs’ website, a new mental health issue has stemmed from the Persian Gulf War, called the “Gulf War Illness.” Symptoms include fatigue, musculoskeletal, mood and cognitive problems.

"It's bad enough when we lose one in combat, it's worse when we lose one when they get home,” O’Loughlin said. “To me, I hand out my personal cell phone number to guys like that. If you are at the last knot on the rope and you need to talk to someone, I tell them to call me.”

Gaither said the survey is beneficial to helping communicate the progress of veteran care.

“It's just another means for us to get the feedback for those we're helping,” Gaither said. “And if it helps us to make improvements, we will be glad to do something.”

The survey is already up and available for use on McCaskill’s website.

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