Graphic design of Sec. Wilkie on Veterans Signals

Veterans Signals

Before I joined the VA, and even before hearing about VA’s Patient Experience framework – I realized employee experience is what drives customer experience. It’s no surprise the top rated companies to work for are also leading in customer satisfaction. Through my time as an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division, and several years of retail management – teamwork was the key. If my teams were given the right information and empowered, we could accomplish anything.

When I started as the Veterans Experience Officer at the Madison, Wisconsin VA Medical Center, I applied the same principals. We have so many dedicated and passionate employees, but the problem often seemed to be not knowing the right information. What are our Veterans, our customers, telling us? How do we use that feedback to shape our process improvements?

The answer for us came from the VA Veterans Experience Office’s Veterans Signals customer experience survey. Veterans Signals, which was rolled out nationally in late 2017, asks Veterans after their appointment to provide feedback and rate the VA on trust, ease, empathy, and effectiveness.

Veterans Signals allows each service such as pharmacy, imaging, or even location such as a Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) to see in real time the feedback that their Veterans have given them. This meant that each team could review their performance routinely, and make quick corrective actions based on that feedback. They had access to the right information.

Most feedback VA receives from Veterans Signals are complimentary, which is also a key element to the employee experience. When compliments come in, and they name a VA employee – we are able to give the deserving team member a “shout out,” to recognize them for their exceptional customer service.

The data and insights available in Veterans Signals allowed us to implemented a five-point customer service program focusing on open communication, employee recognition, WECARE leadership rounding, team-building, and trust. All of these are aimed at enhancing the employee experience, empowering them to improve the overall Veterans experience.

Rockford IL OPC

Rockford, Illinois VA Outpatient Clinic

Those five-points, created an uplifting, empowered employee experience at our CBOCs, allowing them to proactively enhance the patient experience for our Veterans. Encouraged by the success of this program, we are working to implement this strategy at all of our community locations. Since the inception of this program we have seen a marked rise in our Veterans Experience, leading to a 6% decrease in the use of our Patient Advocates between July 1, 2018 and January 31, 2019.  The Madison VAMC’s trust score continues to rise from last year, and is currently 92.6%. This places us at 7th in the nation, but first in our regional Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN 12).

The use of the “right information” isn’t exclusive to the Madison VAMC though. Through Veterans Signals, VA reported last year that 92% of all VA medical centers improved in their trust score.

Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors can be proud of the changes happening all across the VA. Enabled by the right customer experience data, tools, technology, and engagement efforts – VA is making strides when it comes to Secretary Wilkie’s prime directive of customer service.


J Rathkamp

Justin Rathkamp is the Veterans Experience Officer for the Madison, Wisconsin VAMC. He is a U.S. Army Veteran, serving with the 82nd Airborne Division on active duty, and in the U.S. Army Reserve with the Army Reserves Drill Sergeant School. He holds a B.S. in Health Information Management and Technology from the University of Wisconsin and a B.A. in Economics from Marquette University.

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Published on Mar. 5, 2019

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  1. Richard Kent March 31, 2019 at 8:00 am

    The VA is not better. I put in my claim in 2001 and I finally got 40 %. I am going back for agent orange this time and from ischemic heart disease ( heart slips all the time) ,called myocardial ischemia disease. I’ve had 2 heart stints, nervous are shot, take many meds for my nerves, but being the VA, they will do nothing. COPD, have to take alot of pain medication. From 2001 to 2019 is not a good record for the VA.

  2. Brian P Smith March 30, 2019 at 4:29 pm

    Discharged in 1986 Service Connected 10% for a seizure disorder. At this time I didn’t know the law. According to Va law/ and my current attorney I was misrated. I went back in 1988 and they did nothing. So much for duty to assist. In the last couple of years they gave me 10% on a hernia that was service connected at 0% in 1986 at discharge. Even though the Military diagnosised Seizure issues and blood sugar highs nothing additional was done back then. I would think that there would be some consideration for the length this has been going on. Looks like there’s 200,000 cases ahead of me waiting for a judge. I understand there are many vets that also have the same concerns. I hope they are not getting evicted and have $$$$ in debt. I hope my next address won’t be old blue truck, orange blossom trail, Orlando Florida.

  3. Mitzie S Walker March 29, 2019 at 9:05 am

    Could we have a therapy pool in some if the Va treatment facilities..?? It would help so much.
    Water excises etc

  4. Pat Dwyer March 27, 2019 at 2:40 am

    I’ve been in the NorCal VA system for 10 years, rated 100% 8 years ago due to Agent Orange. Oakland, Martinez, Mare Island, San Francisco, Palo Alto, Sacramento: great people, very efficient, very proficient. I could not have asked for better care… and that’s after over 300 appointments. The only glitch was the VBA/Benefits office that took 20 months to grant me 100%, but my first “100% check” covered all 20 months that I waited, and now my monthly 100% check goes into my checking account automatically on the 1st of every month. I am very sorry to hear about the trouble that some other Veterans are having: we deserve better; fortunately for me, I am well cared for and thankful for the respect, warmth and humor that I experience on my visits, along with the good medicine and procedures.

  5. Donald A. Johnson March 26, 2019 at 12:33 pm

    The St. Cloud VA in Minnesota has been good to me. I would recommend it to anyone. I have heard some bad things from people, but does every Dr. and Medical treatment center never make mistakes. The St. Cloud VA has responded to me each time I have called and set up appointments with good results. I am sorry some Vets. have not had great help when they have used the VA for their medical problems.

  6. Mark Poyant March 25, 2019 at 6:30 pm

    Unable to get my veterans benefit card. I’ve been trying for two years.

  7. Billy S. Collins March 23, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    I have been dealing with the VA for 26 years to get my due compensation which I only begin to get last year (2018), I have missed diagnosed for 24 of those years. It wasn’t until I was able to see a couple of civilian doctors before the VA finally got my diagnoses right, and even the ones they got right I have still been denied compensation on other disabilities, now they are proposing to reduce my 100% disability for prostate cancer tied to agent orange which was diagnosed and treated less than two years ago. I often wonder if the VA is there to help or hurt the veteran? Right now and for many years I have not been a happy camper with the services provided by the VA.

  8. Eddie Smith March 22, 2019 at 2:01 pm

    I have a recommendation for the VA across the board. Stop using subjective and misleading language in all VA Media, and publications just to make the topic sound great, positive spin, especially when it comes to VA support for the family. This issue causes Servicemembers and Veterans to think something that is not true, and they file claims and applications, and call VA, they clog up the system on misleading guidance.

  9. D. L. Bennett March 22, 2019 at 12:45 pm

    You have to be aware of the VA office in Atlanta, Ga. Specifically, the VA hospital on Clairmont Road, Decatur, Ga. While the professionals in that facility are pretty darn good, it’s the everyday people one has to face that is a serious problem. I have never felt more disrespected or belittled in my life as I am each time I walk into the door to sign in at that facility. Your hourly employee’s are nothing less than condescending with reverse discrimination comments and accusations. It’s horrible.

    Can someone please look into this? Parking is also horrible.

    Like I stated, the doctor’s and nurses are pretty good. But, we (the veterans) must interface with those people at the front desks. I walk away feeling humiliated and totally disrespected. I am often treated like a homeless beggar, looking for a free hand out. That isn’t right. We served our country. Most of us are disabled. I am a Vietnam veteran and I will no longer go to that facility no matter what. If you can’t looking into this on going problem, my next letter will be to my President, Mr. Donald Trump.

    Have a nice day. Your employees ruined mine!

    D.L. Bennett

    It figures. I try sending you my comments and the system will now allow me to do it. This is what I get with each attempt to send you my remarks.

    ERROR: Unreadable CAPTCHA token file

    « Back

  10. James R Laing March 22, 2019 at 11:18 am

    I had an appointment with a Dr Fox at the Battle Creek VA Hospital on 3-19-2019. I have NEVER been treated by anyone in this manner ! I came to get a shot of Cortisone in both shoulders for pain. I have bone on bone in both and it is very painful !! It seemed that this so called Dr only wanted to argue ! I have been getting these shots every 3-months from a Dr Choe. Unfortunately he retired and Dr Fox was a new Dr. It seemed that he only wanted to pass me onward to something or someone else. I was TOTALLY disgusted and still in Pain !! He was a TOTAL JERK !

  11. Alfred Matthew Adams March 22, 2019 at 11:08 am

    When in the Marine Corps I was a Communications Technician. This job ruined my hearing and years later I applied to the VA for hearing aids. The doctor stated, after reading my DD214 (Discharge Papers) that my MOS is what destroyed my hearing. I applied and received hearing aids but when I applied for disability, I received a form letter denying my request without any explanation, and the letter was not signed by anyone or from what department. I appealed this decision and seven years later I still haven’t received any disability. Last May I did received a letter from the VA information me that I was approved for disability and when I was again notified by the VA, I may receive payment. This was in May of 2018 but as of yet, I have not received any payment. It is going on seven years and I still haven’t received my disability.

  12. Donald J. Casey March 22, 2019 at 10:42 am

    After several months of trying, and a letter from my state senator, I was able to receive hearing aids from the VA. However, as I found out a year later after my hearing became worse, and I contacted the VA audiology clinic at Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, MO. I was told I could not get help until 2021. I then contacted an audiologist in Belleville, Il, Dr. Larry Dobbs, who performed an examination and determined that the hearing aids I was given were inadequate for my needs and made a statement to the VA that my hearing was due exposure to extremely loud noise during my USAF career and exposure to Agent Orange during a tour in Viet Nam. That documentation was submitted along with a statement of PTSD, thyroid cancer due to exposure to Agent Orange, and other medical issues that could be traced back to my military service of 27 years. Now, I receive a letter asking for more documentation that I served in Viet Nam. If you look at my DD214, you will see that I received the Viet Nam Cross of Gallantry w/Palm, the Viet Nam Service Medal, the Viet Nam Campaign Medal with four stars. It is my understanding that these awards and decorations cannot be received without having served in that area. My assignment was with the 633rd Special Operations Wing. So the letter I received from the VA asking for this documentation is already in their possession and still they are delaying a decision. Do I need to contact my state Senator again?

  13. John Frederick Bjorge March 22, 2019 at 10:36 am

    Great program, I needed an appointment at the CBOC in Mount Vernon, WA. When I called in I was pleasantly surprised to get in to see the Doctor in less then a week. I’ve been following all the aspects to try and understand more about the medical problems I’m having. I saw an article about how Yale has been given a $40 million grant to study 900 Veterans using Hemp based CBD for their issues. I can’t take opioids and I’m having constant pain, presently using Diclofenac from my VA Doctor. I can’t do much other then sit some days. Does anyone know if I can get into this study for CBD or how to apply?

  14. joseph ratowski March 22, 2019 at 10:32 am

    the va web site is a disaster it is no good a 5th grader could design something better va fix the web site for us vets

  15. DONNA MARTIN March 12, 2019 at 5:52 pm

    In the past I did not have any issues with the VA, in Denver, CO. However, since they finally moved into the new facility, things are very different. I went for a pulled shoulder, and was told all I needed was physical therapy and meds. The student Doctor assessed and prescribed, then the Doctor came in and confirmed all. I hurt my shoulder in October, and when it wasn’t better by December, I went in. Still an issue, don’t know if it’s worth trying again. I had been experiencing increasingly worse back spasms. Finally after a few months I went in. Yet another student Doctor diagnosed muscular issues, prescribed some meds with physical therapy. All was confirmed by the Doctor. I tried to explain the degree of pain I was in during a back spasm, but they did not listen, said no need for any x-rays or MRI. Within days I ended up in a civilian hospital and got they same answer. When I returned the next day via ambulance, the ER Doctor apologized, remembering me from the previous day, and ordered an MRI. Next day I was having surgery for a Thoracic Intradural Extramedullary Tumor. It probably would have been cheaper for the VA had they done the MRI and surgery. Maybe I was better off not having them do it.

    • Timothy Lane March 22, 2019 at 7:46 pm

      Yes keep going and tell them there quick fix is not working. My experience may help you. I was discharged form the Navy because of my left ankle 1986. Started going to the VA because pain was very high. They keep taking x-rays. They said its just arthritis. Not very bad. I keep pushing till they finally said we will do the MRI and CT.the Ortho told me to my face we will find nothing. So went back for the reading. He then oh you could need a ankle fusion or replacement. That is what the MRI showed. Remember X-rays only shows solid structures bones. MRIs show soft tissue. It you damages the muscles tendens and ligaments the X-Rays dont show that. I was trained as a athletic trainer. The guy that check the guys when they injury a joint. F bad we have the doctor check them. You need x-rays and MRI to see tealy what is going on with your shoulder. A standard injury should be gone in a month if you use it allot.

  16. Jesse A. Johnson March 10, 2019 at 3:11 pm

    VA outpatient facility in Dothan, Alabama is a disaster. Combined it with the mental health facility. No parking and from what I can hear only one MD. Takes two to three weeks for a new pain medicine prescription (required each month) to be written and refilled. No response from e mails to Representative Martha Roby.

  17. Milton Bernal March 10, 2019 at 6:32 am

    The Dallas VA.. NOT all depts but some depts are NOTORIOUS for NOT answering their phones and have FULL mail boxes whereas you can not leave a voicemail and just the other day – I called twice just for the destination end to go off hook and immediately HANG UP the phone without saying ANYTHING.. NOT once – but twice!!

    Why doesn’t the VA install ACD telephone systems and take those statistics from the ACD system to see how many INCOMING / OUT BOUNDS calls are made – the duration of the calls, voice mails, etc.

    I’ve seen first hand – while at the VA waiting for an appt – I have seen where these ‘clerks’ just sit there as the phone rings and rings and rings until the calls rolls over to voicemail and/or the caller just hangs up.

    Very frustrating to say the least. Let’s make these ‘clerks’ accountable

  18. mark A heasley March 7, 2019 at 1:50 pm

    bad surgeries , locked up from hersay, went to lawer he said cant sue va. they cant locke us up on heresay and when were locked up they cant lie.

  19. Michael Buchinski March 6, 2019 at 10:20 am

    Finally, both my claims were decided favorably after 5/7 years. Now, I’m closing in on 6 months and still haven’t received compensation. Yet, the VA website is “proud” to state that after a decision is made, payment should be received within 15 days. A LIE!

    Is the VA any better now? You be the Judge….

    • Jacob Johnson March 22, 2019 at 12:05 pm

      Went to the VA in Daytona Beach and went thru a full physical and I mean an all day testing and the conclusion that I was healthy except for a few items due to age. The following week I went to an outside Dr and she sent me to the Hospital in Ormond Beach and they admitted me immediately for a triple bypass.Why did the V.A. not pick up on this so now I have quit going to the VA unless I don’t mind getting killed by those idiots. The administrator there was as worthless as a dead skunk in the middle of the road. It was a waste of time just talking to her.

  20. Brendalee Ables March 5, 2019 at 11:18 pm

    I guess they need to check out the Phoenix VA. It’s been five years since the huge investigation and it hasn’t gotten any better. The runaround.

  21. Kevin Fuit March 5, 2019 at 5:32 pm

    Can someone please reply to me because I’m having issues every time I try signing into the VA website, because I’m having serious issues with my memory problems, but I just need to know what avenue to take in order to look at my records and to schedule an appointment, I’ve already have the higher rate in order to do all that but two many passwords. If someone could send me the steps to follow would be great.

Comments are closed.

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