By Debbie Gregory.
Have you ever heard of the Veterans Experience Office?
The VA is looking to change the culture of a massive federal agency that provides everything from medical care to monthly disability checks to funerals.
The “Veteran’s Experience” campaign started in 2015 under former VA Secretary Bob McDonald. The office’s budget this fiscal year is $55.4 million, up from $49 million last year.
The VA has rolled out more than 100 community veteran committees nationwide, retraining employees to be more flexible and customer focused.Two years in, the nation’s veteran organizations are still taking a wait-and-see position.
Joe Plenzler, the spokesman for the American Legion, is encouraged by this initiative and hopes to see it succeed.“Any effort to improve dialogue between veterans and VA employees and administrators is time and money well spent.”
Two early goals were to establish one consumer-oriented website and one toll-free telephone number for all VA divisions. The result was vets.gov and (844) My-VA311.
Whether current VA secretary David Shulkin will continue the program has not yet been announced. Shulkin has named former Army officer and Pentagon civilian executive Lynda Davis to head up the office. Lynda is a friend who formerly served as the Executive Vice-President of TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors).
One of the goals of the program is to re-engineer VA routines that aren’t working, identifying “pain points” where the experience hits a snag. This could be canceled appointments, a slow check-in process, or difficulty parking.
The Veterans Experience Office, headquartered in Washington, now has split the country into five districts and dispatched “relationship managers” to each.
“Our goal is to build trust with veterans, their family members and survivors,” said Joy White, who leads the office’s Pacific district, which includes California and the West Coast. “How do we do that? By bringing their voices to everything we do.”