U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is partnering with Arizona State University to launch a new, anonymous survey that aims to gauge the experiences of veterans and their caregivers getting health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs and non-VA providers.
The state is home to 522,188 veterans, and an estimated 92,000 get their health care through the Phoenix VA system, which has harbored a reputation for issues with care, safety and public trust.
In 2018, the VA’s Office of Inspector General found multiple flaws in five of eight areas scrutinized: deficient safety processes, inspections, geriatric medical evaluations and mental health diagnostics. Among the treatment issues, the floors were found dirty and food had missing expiration dates.
Members of the Arizona veteran and military community, their spouses, and caregivers can provide feedback on experiences surrounding the VA.
Sinema, an Arizona Democrat, plans to use the answers collected through the survey to help shape her views on the services and programs that should be improved within the health-care system.
Some Arizona veterans hope to see survey results that enact change.
Preston Miller, who served in the Vietnam War and serves on a panel that helps advise Sinema on veterans-related issues, said veterans continue to complain about the lack of timely appointments and transportation to doctor’s visits.
“Hopefully, we can make the determinations that make changes,” he said of the survey.
Miller said he has faith that Sinema can help make those changes on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee with the help of veterans participating in the survey.
In previous years, ASU has been involved with an annual survey from the Arizona Coalition of Military Families, which brought more than 10,000 respondents and a better understanding of the veteran population in Arizona. Sinema teaches legal issues and social work at ASU.
Drew Trojanowski, an ASU spokesperson, expects the survey to be successful.
“It’ll capture a lot of people,” Trojanowski said, “and it will give us more information to understand — where are our resources? Are they being applied appropriately? Do we need to be rethinking as a state what our strategy is in terms of reaching folks?”
The initiative has gained support from the Disabled American Veterans group.
It comes at an important juncture.
Just last month, former Phoenix VA Director RimaAnn Nelson left her job to take an out-of-state job in the veterans health-care industry. During her time as director, the number of veterans served by the VA grew by 6.7% in two years, according to the VA.
The survey will collect responses through February 2020. Find it at sinema.senate.gov/VAsurvey.