Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Report Finds U.S. Veterans Administration Not Up to Answering the Call

December 05, 2014

For those of us who live in the U.S. the revelations over the past year about the Veterans Administration (VA) not living up to meeting the medical and other needs of vets have been depressing. This in the face of the championing the needs of veterans and their families by first lady Michelle Obama since her husband became president and her vow to end veteran homelessness.

Without getting into the politics of the situation or the blame game, the picture of just how badly the VA has failed in its mission got even more fuel on the fire with the issuance of a blistering report by VA inspectors about what can be characterized as the almost complete dysfunction of the VA’s contact center.  The details of all of this are in a terrific piece of reporting by Kellan Howell of the Washington Times.

As an enticement for readers to click and read the entire piece, a few factoids from it should be more than sufficient.  As noted in the article, the investigation found:

  • 40,500 cases last year in which the call center did not refer homeless veterans to medical facilities or it closed referrals without following up with the VA to ensure the veterans received care.
  • Of the estimated 79,500 homeless veterans who contacted the VA’s National Call Center for Homeless Veterans last year, nearly 27 percent were unable to reach a counselor and had to leave messages, 16 percent could not be referred to VA medical facilities because their messages were inaudible or lacked contact information, and 4 percent were not referred to VA facilities at all.

Shameful is an accurate description. The additional details are the reason to read more about it.

The reason this actually should be a “must read” for everyone in the contact center solutions community regardless of what country you reside in is that putting aside blame, we can all learn a lot about best practices by observing worst ones.  The fact that it took  an internal investigation to find out how poorly the VA contact center was working for what is arguably its most visible program speaks volumes about the need for comprehensive key performance indicators (KPIs).

However, this is not just about measuring things it is also about administrators being both responsible and accountable of taking corrective actions. It also points out the need for the government to invest in state-of-the-art capabilities so there is real-time visibility into contact center operations, the use of analytics to understand the pain points and the ability to adjust resources to address those pain points in a timely manner. 

It is not easy to say since the government really should be here to help, but hopefully everyone can learn from their mistakes. This would include policy makers whose oversight responsibilities should include ensuring that regardless of agency, employees have the right tools, training and supervision to accomplish their missions. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle