That quote comes from Gore Vidal’s book “Julian”.
But what does it have to do with the VA?
Let me start answering by telling you a story.
I used to bad-mouth the VA any chance I got. Lord knows, they have earned each & every criticism that’s been made.
One day not too long ago, a client that served in Vietnam said this to me:
“Chris, the doctors at my VA Medical Center saved my life. If you want to keep bad-mouthing what I consider to have been better care than I’d had anytime in my life before that, that’s fine with me. I just don’t want to be your client anymore.”
Talk about “straight-shooting”. I got the point.
Yesterday, I was invited to visit with officials at the VAMC in Dallas to learn about steps they are doing to deliver better medical care to Veterans.
Here are just a few:
Making MRIs less stressful.
The MRI is stressful for a lot of folks – mostly due to the fact that they are enclosed in such a small opening for such a long period of time.
Not at the Ft. Worth Medical Center. This is one of the first VAMCs in the country to have an “Open Bore” MRI. It’s much larger opening allows patients to have a much more comfortable MRI experience.
Scheduled for an MRI at Dallas, but want to have that comfortable experience in the Open Bore MRI? Easy solution: simply ask to be scheduled for the Open Bore MRI in Ft. Worth, and “voila”, they’ll do it.
Beer and Wine on the Menu.
You are grown men and women, and are old enough to make your own decisions.
That’s the position that the Dallas VA Medical Center Director* took when ensuring that his facility allowed Veterans to have a beer or wine with their meal during inpatient treatment — so long as their doctor approves it.
How cool is that?
Not the beer or wine part necessarily; the fact that the VAMC Director would set a culture where his patients are respected as independent adults.
That could happen more on the VBA side of the house and I wouldn’t complain.
New Specialized Medical Care Facilities.
The VAMC Dallas is in Phase 1 of the construction of a new state-of-the-art Spinal Cord Injury System. Do you know what Phase I is? Building a 1,000 car parking garage.
That, my friends, is forward thinking.
Build room for the capacity before you build the new system. Brilliant.
Why Isn’t the VA talking more about the GOOD things it does?
The National Conversation surrounding the VA is largely negative. At times its downright poisonous.
Clearly, the VA has some big problems, and I’ll be the first to call them on the problems I see. (I’m a sharp-tongued guy, and I’ll do my best to keep my criticisms constructive: call me on it if I cross a line).
But any 21st Century business will tell you that success is “hollow” or “meaningless” unless you tell people about it.
Sure, there are problems at VA Medical Centers.
The VAMC Dallas treats 1.4 million Veterans on an outpatient basis, and 115,000 in-patient. (If I’m wrong on those numbers, let me know).
With those kinds of numbers, things are going to go wrong from time to time. When they do go wrong, word spreads like swine flu.
But I really wish the VA would talk more about the GOOD things that they do for Veterans – there are more than a few things that the VA does really well.
What do you say, VA?
Will you engage us where we we live and work and tell us about the good things you’re doing?
Here’s my idea.
I’m going to start hosting a Monthly Internet Radio Show – I’ll give you the details later.
I was thinking the show might work to change the tone of the National conversation about the VA to something more productive, and more optimistic, and more positive than what it is now.
I’m not talking about polishing turds or sugar-coating bad news. I’m talking about celebrating success – there is a lot of it happening at the VA, I promise you.
What we focus on grows. So let’s focus on the positive.
Would you listen to an internet radio show with this topic?
If so, who in the VA would you like us to interview?
If not, what would you like to hear on a Veterans Radio Show?
Tell me your thoughts in the comment section below.
* VAMC Dallas Director Jeff Milligan has impressed the hell out of me. In the past 18 months, I’ve had 3 distinct occasions to interact with him on specific Veterans Initiatives.
Each and every time, he actually sat and listened to Veterans and their advocates – even a certain fireball attorney that he’d never met before.
He loaned out his Spinal Cord Gymnasium once a month – absolutely free – so we could hold a Monthly Legal Clinic for Indigent and Homeless Veterans.
Then he went a step further and offered the time of one his staff members to take phone calls and schedule appointments for those Veterans at the Legal Clinic.
No other company or individual made that offer.
Director Milligan is a solid man in my book. If you see him walking the halls of the VAMC Dallas, give him an “attaboy”…he’s earned it.