The American Legion delivered its 2012 System Worth Saving (SWS) Task Force report today to all members of Congress, as well as to the White House and senior Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) officials.

The SWS report’s findings and recommendations are based on information collected over six months during site visits to 25 VA medical centers across the country. Task force members also held two dozen town hall meetings with veterans who shared their experiences with VA health care and offered suggestions for improvement.

“We conduct these site visits annually to evaluate improvements that VA has made in its health-care system, and challenges that remain,” said Jacob Gadd, the Legion’s deputy director of health. “This year, we took a close look at the level of patient satisfaction, as well as the overall quality of health care being delivered to our veterans.”

During site visits to VA facilities, task force members interviewed executive leadership, including patient safety managers, chief medical information officers, directors of patient care services, patient advocates and women veterans program managers.

Overall, Gadd said the SWS teams found the quality of VA health care to be excellent. He also noted that, since 2000, the number of quality-of-care measures has grown from 10 to more than 500. “Many of the VA facilities indicated the need to review these measures, which are not evidence-based, to ensure their efficiency and effectiveness.”

The SWS report found many problems with patient scheduling, and that VA still relies on centralized scheduling and reminder phone calls for appointments. “If VA is truly moving toward a patient-centered model of care, it needs to move away from automation and toward a more personalized approach,” Gadd said.

The report‘s recommendations for the VA include the need to:

• Create a Veterans Health Administration (VHA) executive hiring task force to assess the numbers of staff vacancies and positions, and swiftly fill them as permanent positions.

• Improve VA medical centers phone systems, and the appointment scheduling process needs to be decentralized.

• Hire more patient advocates, and volunteers should be used to address, analyze and track patient care issues and concerns.

• Adopt a single, consistent patient-satisfaction survey, such as Truthpoint or Press Ganey.

• Have representatives from local veterans communities serve as members of VA facilities’ customer service boards and patient satisfaction committees.

To view the report’s findings and recommendations, please go to: http://www.legion.org/documents/legion/pdf/swsreport2012.pdf

The SWS program is The American Legion’s primary health-care evaluation tool for gauging the timeliness and quality of care at VA medical facilities. Each year, the program visits VA medical centers across the country, and its report on these site visits is shared with the U.S. president, members of Congress and VA leadership.

For more information on the SWS program, please visit www.legion.org/systemworthsaving or contact Gadd at jgadd@legion.org.