Missouri’s Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill released her annual report on the performance of medical services as Memorial Day weekend kicked off.

Senator Claire McCaskill (R-Missouri)

McCaskill’s veterans’ customer satisfaction program was launched in 2011 amid reports of problems at John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis.  Under its provisions, veterans can document their experiences at VA health care facilities confidentially through the “secret shopper’s survey”.

The just released report shows that, for the past three cycles at the St. Louis facility, respondents are happier with communication, care, wait times and appointment scheduling.  In a release, McCaskill credited the hiring of a permanent director and a new call center for making it easier for veterans to schedule appointments.

The report, which included categories ranging from customer service to quality of care, showed a general positive response from veterans about their experiences at the VA facility in St. Louis.  It included detailed recommendations on ways to improve performance levels of medical service.

Although McCaskill’s veterans’ customer satisfaction program has been in existence for seven years, shortcomings within the VA overall came to light in 2014 after reports that at least 19 veterans died at VA hospitals in 2010 and 2011 because of delays in diagnosis and treatment.  As a result, Congress passed the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014.

A scan of McCaskill’s latest “secret shopper’s survey” of the St. Louis area showed example’s of veterans’ experiences with VA medical services.  Here’s one:

“I had to leave 2 messages, but was not called back. I then called a 3rd time & spoke with the RN over Mental Health. I wanted to self-schedule, but she was not aware I could do that. She put me on hold & went to ask someone; when she came back she scheduled my appt.”

The experiences were followed by recommendations and VA Medical Center responses.  In describing its scope and methodology, the report stated that it was not meant to be a scientifically-constructed study.

Reports for the Kansas City, Springfield, Columbia and Poplar Bluff regions have also been released.  In the conclusion section of all of them, the phrase “is making progress with regard to customer service” was part of the first sentence.

The conclusions were all upbeat in presentation, with examples of unique improvements made at each of the five VA centers.

McCaskill’s Veterans’ Customer Satisfaction Program was launched during her first term after being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006.  McCaskill’s press releases often say she is the daughter of a World War II veteran.

She’s been an outspoken advocate of veteran’s issue for her entire Senate career.  She’s a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and has worked closely with its chairman, Republican John McCain of Arizona.