The recent news that Secretary Shinseki resigned is unfortunate because our veterans and their families deserve better and because Shinseki is by all accounts an honorable person. However, the most unfortunate aspect is that some of these woes were foreseeable and some were even preventable.
A couple of points worth making as it relates to the VA and its ability to deliver customer service.
- The wrong metrics led to [predictably] bad results. Tying personal bonuses to short wait times resulted in… short wait times! There is a danger in excluding counter-balancing goals/metrics from your service program as I describe in this article.
- The VA’s status as a monopoly made positive change even more difficult. What the VA needs is competition with the private sector. The employees who felt beyond the bounds of morality and ethics need to feel the pressure of competition. Their jobs must be on the line when they perform poorly.
The VA, for all its other functions, is a customer service organization. Their customers are veterans and their families. And beyond that their customers are the citizens who depend on veterans and who fund the department through our taxes.
The pivot point is that only through a fundamental change in the way we compensate VA employees and in the way the VA competes can we ensure quality health care for those who placed themselves in harm’s way. Bad health care and corrupt employees can never be the response of a “grateful nation.”