Veterans Corner: VA, federal partners plan for COVID-19 vaccination distribution

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    By Raymond Taylor
    Archuleta County Veterans Service Office

    The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal partners to develop a comprehensive COVID-19 vaccine plan to ensure the VA safely and equitably distributes vaccines once authorized. 

    The plan will be a phased approach based on scientific and historical evidence, lessons learned from past pandemic vaccine plans and input from scientific experts both within and outside the VA. 

    “In October, staff at VA medical facilities conducted important planning exercises in preparation for the vaccine,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “These exercises help us to address vaccine distribution, allocation, safety monitoring and supply tracking.” 

    COVID-19 vaccine implementation will include an initial limited-supply phase followed by a general implementation phase, when large supplies of the vaccine will be available to veterans who want to receive one. 

    VA experts in ethics, health equity, infectious disease, logistics, pandemic planning, pharmacy and public health, as well as those in the areas of change management, clinicians from various disciplines, data, education, IT, safety and training, along with government partners, were sought for input to help develop the plan. The VA also conducted veteran listening sessions for valuable feedback in the planning process. 

    VA releases customer experience report

    The VA recently released the VA Customer Experience Accomplishments Report detailing 71 major initiatives to improve customer service for veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors.

    Improving customer service as a top priority at the VA was established in 2018 and it challenged the department to rethink VA customer interactions, designating the Veterans Experience Office (VEO) as the ”voice of the veteran.”

    “The goal is to provide veterans a modern, streamlined and responsive customer experience,” said Wilkie. “VA actively engages in efforts that maximize the collective impact of stakeholders delivering federal, state and local services for improving outcomes where veterans live, work and raise their families.”

    Veterans have validated the VA’s efforts, with trust in VA health care reaching an all-time high in April and VA-wide trust up 16 points since January 2016. Relying on 5.7 million real-time responses from 66 customer feedback surveys to improve service recovery and guide program improvements, the report shares the accomplishments representing major achievements in the strategic deployment of VEO’s shared CX capabilities to include:

    • Implementing a new electronic health record system providing seamless veteran patient records access between Department of Defense, community care providers and the VA.

    • Connecting with transitioning veterans during their first year of separation via Solid Start.

    • Honoring nearly 4 million veterans interred at VA national cemeteries with a digital memorial space.

    • Improving access to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals with virtual hearings.

    • Connecting veterans to resources more than 238 million times via the VA’s weekly email.

    • Answering close to 3 million customer calls via 800-MyVA411 and the White House VA Hotline, which both offer general assistance agents available immediately.

    The VA has integrated this culture of customer service for creating the department’s first customer service policy and CX directive, codifying customer experience principles in the Code of Federal Regulations and publishing a practitioner’s guide — the CX cookbook -— to help other government agencies adopt customer-centric principles as part of its role as the Lead Agency Partner for the President’s Management Agenda Cross-Agency Priority Goal on Improving Customer Experience with Federal Services.

    Veterans Day thanks

    My heartfelt thanks for the participation at our ceremony at the Veterans Memorial Park for Veterans Day. Keep all our families in our hearts, especially those with deployed service members during this Thanksgiving time.

    Vets4Vets grant

    Vets4Vets has received a grant from the Colorado Department of Military and Veteran Affairs. This is to support veterans in our community through the following assistance: housing, utilities, mental health counseling, dental services, travel assistance, automobile repairs, gas and food cards, and emergency veteran assistance. 

    Contact Vets4Vets at 799-VETS or www.Vets4VetsPSCO.org.

    Contact information

    Veterans: Thank you for your service. Welcome home.

    For further information on VA benefits, please call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office (VSO), located at the Pagosa Springs Senior Center in the Ross Aragon Community Center on Hot Springs Boulevard.

    The office: 264-4013, fax number: 264-4014, and email is raytaylor@archuletacounty.org. Bring your DD Form 214 (discharge) for applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to enroll, and for filing in the Archuleta County VSO. Always leave a message and phone number to contact you.

    The following veterans groups meet in Pagosa Springs:

    • American Legion Post 108: second Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

    • Veterans for Veterans: every Tuesday at 10 a.m., Tennyson Building Event Center, 197 Navajo Trail Drive. Breakfast meeting on the first Tuesday of the month at 9 a.m. Contact 799-8387 for more details.

    • Combat Veterans PTSD Group: every other Tuesday at noon, Community United Methodist Church, Lewis Street. Contact Gary Hanneman at 946-2540.

    • Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans: first and third Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m., Dr. Carter’s office; contact Charlotte at 903-9690.

    Important information

    • 799-VETS, www.Vets4VetsPSCO.org.

    • Durango VA Outpatient Clinic: 247-2214.

    • Farmington VA Center: (505) 326-4383.

    • VAMC Albuquerque, N.M.: (800) 465-8262.

    • VA Health Care Emergency Notification: (844) 724-7842.

    The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support to veterans in crisis, as well as their family and friends 24/7/365. Call (800) 273-8255, chat online or text 838255.