When I discussed the possibility of employment at VA with my future boss, he asked if I had used VA services myself.
“Just the GI Bill,” I said. “I’m not going to take my chances in a VA hospital.”
I was a couple years out of the Army, still young but not young enough to ignore the ailments resulting from a combat tour as an infantryman. I didn’t have any exposure to the medical care side of VA, and just assumed it wasn’t for me. I simply “heard” from “them” that the care was subpar. And since then, I’ve proven my own misconceptions wrong. Many VA facilities have ranked among the best hospitals in the country—and I declined excellent federal employee health insurance benefits to utilize VA care exclusively.
I’ve heard similar murmurs from countless Veterans since I’ve been here, and while I understand the skepticism, it’s simply unconstructive and potentially harmful to spread falsehoods and inaccuracies to folks that need help–ranging from common illnesses to surgery and life-long mental health care. Not to mention other services, like home loans and education benefits.
Skepticism formed from second-hand information isn’t beneficial to anyone, and simply put, it doesn’t help your buddy to tell them to stay out of the VA system.
I’ll be completely honest: I’ve had a few frustrating moments with VA medical care over the years, but the good far outweighs the bad. When I go to appointments, I actively look for problems. I usually come away with none (and I don’t tell anyone I work for VA). I try to tell both sides to give balance to that monolithic idea of VA that Veterans hold. It can be difficult, as folks tend to conflate problems like the claims backlog to health care and end up avoiding both. But that isn’t a solution for anyone.
It’s fair to suggest that any tooting of our own horn would be met with skepticism, so that’s where third-party validations come into play. Somewhere in the middle of satisfied and unsatisfied Veterans enrolled in VA care are millions of undecided Vets who, for any number of reasons, don’t pursue benefits. We need to convince those people to swing by, but we have to end this chronic cynicism of VA.
So this is an open invitation to any Veterans service organization, non-profit, church group, sewing circle, online discussion board, student Veterans group—anyone really—who would like to help correct this chronic issue of mistrust. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with “VA trust gap” in the subject line, and we’ll toss around ideas on how we get folks into the system. I can also help connect you with folks from the benefits, health, and cemetery offices to discuss more specific issues.
It’s past the time where we are content with throwing up our hands and ceding large swaths of Veterans because we don’t know how to reach them. A lot of that has to do with building trust on our end, but to begin, we have to get a handle on the untruths out there. So let’s talk. The line is now open.