Customer Service “the Prime Directive”

Texas VA focuses on improving with help from new council program


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HARLINGEN, Texas — The Harlingen VA Outpatient Clinic held its first sub Management Advisory Council (MAC) meeting here on November 28, 2018.

VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System (VCB) established sub Management Advisory Councils (MAC) at each of the four outpatient clinics it operates.

The councils bring together skilled experts from the private, non-profit and government sectors.

“These special councils allow the Veteran community to have a voice,” said VCB public affairs officer Reynaldo Leal.  “This program allows representatives from various Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) to have the opportunities to help make improvements to the health care system because it provides them with an official platform to formally share their concerns and present solutions and ideas within this health care system.”

The councils are charged with advising the administrative officers at each of the clinics. Program plans include that sub-MAC members to meet multiple times per year and engage in periodic reviews, which some committee members expressed positive feedback for.

“The fact that we members know that we will have to meet multiple times a year is a good thing,” said Jorge Vallejo the adjutant for the Rio Grande Valley chapter for Detachment 1456 of the Marine Corps League, who was elected to be the co-chairman for the sub-council at HOPC. “Sometimes Veteran service groups have a difficult time voicing some of the concerns and issues affecting Veterans because there just weren’t many formal opportunities to share and discuss the information or the groups weren’t advocating in the best way.”

Vallejo elaborated further by stating, “being part of this council reminds of the signing of the Declaration of Independence when Benjamin Franklin reminded all the delegates of the importance of unity shortly before signing their names. The reason I refer to that quote is because many Veteran groups have tried to improve things, but weren’t successful because they tried doing things by themselves.

‘I think the lesson in Franklin’s words is that we now try doing things together instead because although failure may still be a possibility with any new endeavor, the likelihood of success is much greater when we combine resources and time to propose ideas to fix the issues negatively impacting our Veterans and families.”

The council at the Harlingen clinic meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month and is comprised of clinic leadership and representatives from various Veterans service groups. Council meetings are also held at VCB’s other outpatient clinics in McAllen, Laredo and Corpus Christi.

The MAC program is part of the ongoing local and national efforts by the VA to improving customer service across the agency, which was listed as first among the top-four priorities VA Secretary Robert Wilkie explained in a state-of-the-VA message.

“So our first priority is customer service. That’s the prime directive,” said Wilkie. “When Veterans come to VA, it is not up to them to get us to say yes. It’s up to us, you and me, to get Veterans to yes. That’s customer service. We’re going to make sure you’re trained and equipped to achieve that.”

Screen shot of VA Secretary Robert Wilkie's state-of-the-VA message published on VAntage Point in September 2018. Click on hyperlink in story to read article, which features the message in video form.

Screen shot of VA Secretary Robert Wilkie’s state-of-the-VA message published on VAntage Point in September 2018. Click on hyperlink in story to read article, which features the message in video form.

Author

Luis Loza Gutierrez

Luis H. Loza Gutierrez joined the Department of Veterans Affairs in October of 2017 and serves as a public affairs specialist for VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System.

In addition to winning multiple awards as a writer, photographer, illustrator and graphic artist during his more than 10 years in the U.S. Air Force as a public affairs specialist and photojournalist, L.G. (as he was called by his fellow Airmen) also served as a member for the Air Force Honor Guard at the base-level during his last permanent-duty station in North Dakota.

He volunteered to deploy out of cycle twice in a period of less 18 months, the second of which included a six-month tour as a member of the public affairs team at USF-I Headquarters at Camp Victory in Baghdad.

The now retired non-commissioned officer returned home to the Rio Grande Valley in deep South Texas in November of 2015, and feels enthusiastic and honored to continue to serve his fellow brothers- and sisters-in-arms as a member of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

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