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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Veterans: VA Care Is Great, But Customer Service Needs Improvement

Peter Biello
Deborah Amdur, the director of the White River Junction VA Medical Center, speaks at a forum for veterans at the VA Clinic in Burlington on Dec. 12, 2014.

The U.S. Department of Veterans affairs offers great medical care, but its customer service needs improvement. That was the word from many veterans who attended an open forum on Friday about Vermont’s VA health care system.

All veterans who spoke praised the medical care they received, but some complained about phone calls that weren’t returned, or alleged rudeness on the part of VA clinic staff.

Todd Alexander is a veteran from Milton. He says the care he’s received at the VA has been good, but overall the VA needs better management.

“When I go to White River Junction for two appointments, one’s at nine o'clock in the morning, and I’m not properly checked in with X-ray department, my next appointment at 11 o'clock, they show me as a no-show," says Alexander. "They’ve already filled my slot. What am I gonna do? I just drove down two hours, now I gotta wait another couple hours to get fit in. That’s not right.”

Deborah Amdur, the White River Junction VA Medical Center director, says forums like this bring these issues to light.

“It bothers me no end when I hear that a veteran came into a facility that I have responsibility for, but they weren’t greeted in a welcoming way, and you know staff didn’t go out of their way to make sure their needs were taken care of," she says.

Amdur says by and large, the VA's service is good. She points out that Vermont’s VA centers in White River Junction and Burlington have avoided the long wait-times that have plagued other VA centers nationally.

The next forum of this kind will take place in White River Junction in early 2015.

Peter was a Producer/Announcer at VPR until 2015. He began his public radio career in 2007 at WHQR-FM in Wilmington, North Carolina where he served as Morning Edition host and reporter, covering county government and Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base. His work has won several Associated Press awards and has appeared on NPR's All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, and PRI's This American Life. A graduate of the creative writing program at the University of Maine at Farmington, Peter enjoys writing, cooking and traveling.
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