In January of this year several Roseburg Veterans Affairs employees asked if I could get a copy of the 2013 VA employee satisfaction survey. After attempting to get this in formation from the Roseburg and Veterans Integrated Service Network Freedom of Information Act offices with no success, I requested the survey from Washington FOIA on Feb. 27. I finally received the report on July 3.
The 2013 employee satisfaction report shows that, like the veterans, the employees rate the Roseburg facility very low compared to other VA facilities. The veterans report rated Roseburg in the bottom 4 percent of all VA facilities. Unfortunately, unlike the veterans report that compared all VA facilities, the employee report only compared VISN 20 results for comparison. VISN 20 is the regional office that oversees Washington, Oregon, Alaska and parts of Idaho Montana and California. The report does show an average for all VA facilities and Roseburg was consistently below this average.
The Roseburg employees rated the VA facility at the bottom in most categories. The areas where Roseburg rated high were burnout, turnover intentions and exhaustion. The lowest ratings were for organizational commitment, job control and innovation. Roseburg scores were “significantly, slightly or much lower than the comparison group” in amount of work, direct supervision, senior management, promotion opportunity, customer satisfaction, overall satisfaction, work group satisfaction, organization satisfaction, employee development, leadership, respect, conflict resolution, cooperation, diversity acceptance and civility.
An area of concern for me were the charts that showed there has been very little change in these results in the past four years. In other words, things are not getting better. When employees were asked if they were supplied with results of prior surveys Roseburg was above average. However, when asked if changes were made based on prior surveys, Roseburg was far below the average.
When employees were given 19 areas from which to choose and asked what area most needed improvement the vast majority, 53 percent, selected senior leader/upper management while only 11 percent selected pay/benefits/promotion. Over the years there have been many veterans who have attempted to inform the director and chief of staff of the problems that confront the veteran when they attempted to get health care. At one time the senior management at the facility was open to these suggestions and worked with the veterans in an attempt to rectify the situation. When the current director came to the facility she disbanded a number of the committees with veterans as members and removed veteran representation on other committees. I have to wonder if this was a good move. I think the fact there has been little or no improvement in the past four years speaks for itself.
It is my personal feeling that the vast majority of employees at the Roseburg facility are good, hard-working people who want to do their best to help the veteran. Unfortunately they are hampered by bureaucratic red tape and unrealistic systems and procedures placed on them by Washington and VISN 20. In the 22 years that I have been going to the Roseburg facility, I have never seen the employee and veteran morale as low as it is today. In a meeting on Oct. 29, 2012, I asked the current director why the VA continued to lie about wait times. I received no answer. When employees are told to adjust records to show that goals are being met, when they are in fact not, it is extremely hard on employee morale. Combine this with the harassment the employees receive from the veterans, who know they are being lied to, and the result can only be stress and flaring tempers. It is no wonder the employees feel like they are being squeezed from both sides.
All I can hope for is that the employees will be as patient as possible with the veterans and that the veterans will be as understanding as possible with the staff. We are all in this together, for better or worse.
If anyone would like a copy of the employee survey, just send me an email and I will gladly forward it to you.
Fred Tempest of Riddle is a U.S. Army veteran who served as a radio operator in Germany from 1954-56. Now a retired manufacturing consultant, he is a former member of the VA’s Patient-Centered Care Committee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.