Dear Veterans, Thank you for choosing North Florida and South Georgia Veterans Health System as your provider of choice.
As a veteran, I know what it means to serve, which is why I cherish your military service. I also recognize that health care is a very personal experience and that receiving timely, high quality, and safe medical care is a priority you should expect.
I am grateful for all the feedback I get from veterans. Your voice is very important. Oftentimes I feel like I couldn’t do my job without the candid and candid conversations I have with so many of you.
A few weeks ago, I shared a veteran experience update with you to highlight our trust score. This score is directly tied to survey results based on your experiences and response to a particular question: “I trust the North Florida and South Georgia Veterans Health System for my needs. in health care”. Although our trust score has never been higher, I am committed to continuous improvement. I value your trust as a top priority.
When you meet so many of you, as veterans often do, we share stories of our service and that of our comrades. These are always powerful exchanges that bring value and meaning to the work I do and the mission to which I dedicate myself.
A story I don’t often share is why I receive my care from the Veterans Health Administration. Most people know me as the executive director of the nation’s largest VA healthcare system. However, before all of that, I was a US Marine.
I served eight years and eight days on active duty as an enlisted Marine. It was certainly an honor to serve and to follow in my father’s footsteps. He was also a Marine, which on a personal level made my service even more special to me. As you are no doubt aware, many stories shared by other veterans also acknowledge the service of previous generations.
After my Marine Corps service ended, I learned that because of my service, I was eligible for VA health care. At the time, I really didn’t appreciate what it meant or how valuable it would be. I was still young when I left the service and health care was not even something I thought I needed. I remember receiving a letter in the mail letting me know that I was eligible to receive VA services and I thought to myself that in five or six years I would be requesting an appointment. Well, instead, the VA sued me! They contacted me to schedule a new primary care appointment for the patient. Why? Because VA focuses on preventative care.
During my first primary care visit, I learned that the strength of the VA health care system is built on a lifelong commitment to veteran patients. It’s a relationship that emphasizes prevention rather than waiting for a problem to arise and then dealing with it. On the day of my first appointment, I realized how precious this relationship can be and how much that value means ― not only for me, but also for other veterans.
Health care, as widely practiced in the United States, might more accurately be called “caring for the sick.” Patients often avoid seeing their doctor until they have an acute or urgent problem. However, it is usually more difficult and expensive to treat conditions later in their progression. Such a situation is further exacerbated by the complexity of the health problems associated with military service. By shifting the focus from treatment to prevention and effective management, providers can help patients avoid many conditions or prevent health problems from progressing.
As I mentioned, prevention helps reduce the human and financial costs of illness, which is certainly desirable. However, it requires the coordination of multiple providers working together to effectively identify and prevent conditions while a difference can still be made. VA is THE leader in care coordination.
Once I registered with VA Health Care, I was so impressed that soon after I applied and was selected for a job with the Veterans Health Administration. I told myself that I wanted to be part of an organization committed to veterans and prioritizing relationships as the foundation of health service delivery.
I share this story because I want each of you to understand this perspective. I have used only VA healthcare for all my medical needs since 2005. I think it is important to emphasize that I am a federal employee and as such I have access to federal benefits and comprehensive healthcare coverage. My federal benefits allow me to access healthcare from anywhere. However, as a service-bound veteran, I choose to access and receive all of my VA health care.
I want my veterans to know that I am not just serving as an employee of the North Florida and South Georgia Veterans Health System and then receiving health care services elsewhere. I receive the same health care that I oversee. I am invested in this health care system to ensure that the care all Veterans receive continues to improve. As I get older, I want a VA who is positioned, ready, and able to meet my health care needs when I need them most. I trust the VA and would not hesitate for a second to access VA care, whether primary, mental health, surgical, specialty or emergency services.
In 2005, after completing my first VA primary care visit, I felt the same as I do now. VA healthcare is about building a lifelong relationship and enabling veterans to access VA throughout their life course. As a patient, the Veterans Health Administration is a trusted partner. As a member of this team, I am committed to improving and developing the services we provide to all veterans.
Marine Corps Veteran
Health System Executive Director
North Florida and South Georgia Veterans Health System