This weekend I received a Tweet from a fellow veteran.

“Why do people that work for the VA have to be so mean? This goes to the vets that work for the VA from a fellow vet.”

I am not sure if that makes me sad or angry. I do know that it is not supposed to be that way. No employee at VA should ever act in a way that warrants a categorization of “mean” by the very customers for whom we exist. This goes even more so for employees who are Veterans themselves.

Now, I have been told more than once that I can be unapproachable, mean, or uncaring. I attribute part of that to having spent 20 years in the US Army, part on being a Texan and part to hidden reasons that many people deal with on a daily basis. None of which is an excuse nor is it acceptable. I also know an equal amount of rude, mean, angry, cynical, and hypocritical (you get the point) people who are not Veterans.

See, I am learning happiness begins on the inside and works outward to share with others. Being the Nation’s second largest employer of Veterans, VA has many different personalities, behaviors and experiences in a huge melting pot of diversity and inclusion. As a Veteran myself, I am also a patient at VA. I will share with you my secrets to getting quality help at most visits.

  1. Smile
  2. Pick up a comment card and carry it with me the entire visit
  3. Thank each and every VA employee who is having a good day
  4. With care, ask each employee who is not having a good day, “Are you ok?” (Listen Only)
  5. If  dissatisfied, stay calm and report the event on the comment card or to a Patient Advocate
  6. For ANY positive event, fill out the comment card with praise of employee(s) by name

That said, I have worked for VA for about 6 years. I have met many employees across the country and I can honestly say that the majority are talented, smart and caring people. I have also met some of the “mean” people that I too avoid. Sometimes, you just have to stay in your lane and avoid the obstacles that arise when people are wrapped up in their own misery or troubles. And I remind myself daily to smile.

A smile goes a long way to brighten a work day, a hospital visit, or a routine appointment.

A smile goes a long way to brighten a work day, a hospital visit, or a routine appointment.

If you are a patient at VA, I am sorry for every rude or mean comment you have ever had at VA and I hope we as an organization can better demonstrate the principles of “iCARE”. We all need to review them daily as our new leader, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald, has embraced them in his first address to VA Employees.

If you are not a current VA Employee and want to bring your caring, positive, and proactive attitude to VA, I invite you to review the open positions that you may qualify for at

My Mama’s Secret: Because nice matters!

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Published on Aug. 4, 2014

Estimated reading time is 2.7 min.

Views to date: 160


  1. Esther Scott August 4, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    I recently went to an appointment at the PTSD center in Oakland, Pa., so that they can verify whether or not I am service-connected and the tall lady in a pantsuit who tested me was so mean she acted as though she knew me from another life and I was her bully or something. I was shocked to see her so non-caring and nasty. And yes…..weeks later, she decided that I wasn’t service-connected. What’s new?

  2. Ed August 4, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    Well, let’s just you might not to have a run-in with a certain pulmonary worker in the Phoenix VA Clinic. She treats Vet’s like dirt. On our last visit to the clinic, she was calling a vet to do the intake breathing test. His wife started to get up, and she told her to just stay there, they didn’t need her. The vet was in a wheelchair and could hardly move it. The VA employee did not even attempt to help him. Another vet had to do help. His wife could only just stand there in disbelief.

  3. George August 4, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    As a former care giver at the V.A., and Army Medic,I can agréé completely with the author. I gavé the Army 6 1/2 years and the V.A. 18 1/2. Retired in1998, my former patients still say “hi” when we meet while I am having my appointment.

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