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Sen. Salazar Requests Proof that VA is Improving Efforts to Answer Veterans' Questions by Phone

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Location: Washington, DC


Sen. Salazar Requests Proof that VA is Improving Efforts to Answer Veterans' Questions by Phone

Investigation finds almost half of all callers received incorrect information

Washington, DC - Senator Ken Salazar recently wrote to Veterans Affairs Secretary, R. James Nicholson, requesting further information on the VA's announced programs to improve its phone-help system, which was originally created to provide information to veterans.

Recent reports showed only 19 percent of the answers veterans received when calling for help were completely correct. Additionally, the report found employees to be "dismissive," "unhelpful," and "rude."

Salazar wrote in the letter, "America's veterans and their families deserve better. Among other things, they have earned the right to expect our government to do everything it can to provide timely and effective services, and they have certainly earned the right to respectful treatment by those individuals responsible for assisting them. Anything less is an unacceptable dereliction of our solemn obligation to honor and provide for our veterans."

The full copy of the letter follows:

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I am writing with regard to a troubling issue related to your department's ability to provide assistance and guidance to our nation's veterans.

It was recently reported in the Washington Post that an internal inquiry by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) revealed a startling lack of accuracy and professionalism in the phone responses of department employees to requests for assistance or advice. While I am pleased that the VA took the initiative to assess this matter, I am disturbed by the results of that survey.

As the Post reported, out of over 1,000 phone calls to 57 regional VA offices, "almost half the time [callers] got answers that the department said were either completely incorrect or minimally correct." Only 19 percent of the answers were deemed to be "completely correct." Moreover, in some cases, the department found employees to be "dismissive," "unhelpful," and "rude."

America's veterans and their families deserve better. Among other things, they have earned the right to expect our government to do everything it can to provide timely and effective services, and they have certainly earned the right to respectful treatment by those individuals responsible for assisting them. Anything less is an unacceptable dereliction of our solemn obligation to honor and provide for our veterans.

I was encouraged to read that your department has begun taking steps to improve performance in this critical area, through stricter employee evaluation measures and more effective training. As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, I am interested in learning more about the specifics of these measures - both the quality-improvement programs already in place and those currently in development.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Ken Salazar
United States Senator

http://salazar.senate.gov/news/releases/060124vets.htm

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