WASHINGTON – Congressman Tom Rice (R-S.C.) today introduced the Survey Our Servicemembers Act, legislation that would establish a nationwide, annual survey of veterans’ experiences receiving health care, both through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and through non-VA providers. This bill would require a survey be commissioned by an independent organization to gather information on veterans’ experiences with scheduling appointments, wait times, cost of care and overall quality of care received.
“My office recently conducted a survey of veterans in my district to get insight on their health care experiences, including with scheduling appointments and overall quality of care, and the responses were very insightful,” said Congressman Rice. “By making this a nationwide survey, more veterans will have their voices heard and we can use their feedback to help provide veterans with the care they deserve.”
The Survey Our Servicemembers Act is based on a survey that was conducted earlier this year by Congressman Rice’s office. His office partnered with the Institute for Public Service and Policy Research (IPSPR) at the University of South Carolina to conduct a survey of veterans living in the Seventh District of South Carolina about their experiences using both the VA health system and non-VA facilities. Key findings of the survey include:
  • Obtaining Health Care
    • 82 percent of veterans received care at a non-VA facility in the last two years.
    • The four VA centers where respondents were most likely to seek or receive care were Dorn VA Medical Center, Ralph Johnson VA Medical Center, Myrtle Beach VA Outpatient Clinic, and Florence VA Outpatient Clinic.
    • More than 70% of respondents rated travel time to a health care facility as either extremely important or very important, and nearly 74% indicated it took less time to travel to a non-VA facility.
  • Scheduling Appointments
    • More than 25% of respondents had to contact the VA facility between two and five times to schedule their appointment. However, the majority of respondents had to contact the VA facility only once to schedule their appointment.
    • Roughly 13% to 18% of those who tried making an appointment at a VA medical center were unable to schedule one, depending on the facility.
    • About 30% of veterans indicated that they have delayed seeking care because of difficulty obtaining an appointment.
    • While about 13% to 31% of veterans were able to be seen within a week of making an appointment, 26% to 46% faced wait times of longer than a month, depending on the facility. 
    • Over 65% indicated that it takes fewer days to be seen at non-VA facilities.
  • Quality of Care
    • A plurality of veterans rated the care they received at non-VA facilities as “somewhat better” or “much better” than VA care.
    • The quality of health care services and communication with providers ranked as the most important factors for veterans when it comes to health care. Veterans reported that non-VA facilities were better in both of these categories.
  • Cost of Care
    • A majority of veterans indicated that out of pocket costs of services are less at VA facilities.