Saturday, May 24, 2014

Claire McCaskill's Memorial Day message

(From Sen. Claire McCaskill)

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.

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 deserve is simply by talking to them directly. 

I'm proud that's what we've been doing in Missouri. In 2011, I launched the Veterans' Customer Satisfaction Program - 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.

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, with another 17.4 percent rating their experience as 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.

I'm 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 inspector general is now investigating this matter. It is 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.

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. 

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.

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