By Craig Roberts

Approximately 42,000 veterans enrolled in health-care system will be asked to participate in telephone interviews.

On Feb. 28, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Health Administration (VHA) will begin an extensive, 12-week survey of former servicemembers, the results of which will help VA shape its future policies, programs and budgets. In all, about 42,000 veterans enrolled in the VA system will be asked to participate in a 15- to 30-minute telephone interview.

“It is critically important for veterans to participate in this survey, so that VA can address their needs and concerns,” said Verna Jones, director of The American Legion Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division. “As veterans, we need to take advantage of opportunities to speak openly about ways that VA can make their health-care services even better and create new services as well.”

Survey questions range from the collection of routine demographic data such as age, marital status, race and ethnicity, employment status, household income and the like to more specific queries regarding state of health, insurance coverage type (such as TRICARE, Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance), prescription use, and costs and even whether or not the veteran smokes cigarettes.

The last such survey revealed that the median age of VA health-care enrollees was 63 years and, for the most part, they were male, married and white. Sixty-one percent of enrollees were not in the labor force, and the median household income of those surveyed was $30,000. Most enrollees reported one dependent, served in the armed forces for over six years and were discharged from active duty nearly 40 years ago. Forty-three percent of those surveyed were exposed to combat during their military service.

Though the majority of veterans taking advantage of VA health care are senior citizens, previous surveys have shown the median age as trending downwards. This continuing trend is expected to be reflected in this year’s census, as is the rapidly increasing number of women veterans. Both factors could influence significant changes to VA’s programs and fiscal planning.

Veterans selected to participate in the survey will soon receive a letter of invitation and explanation.