Dear fellow Veterans,
Thank you for selecting North Florida/South Georgia Veteran Health System as your provider of choice.
As a fellow Veteran I know what it means to serve, which is why your military service is treasured by me. I also recognize that health care is a very personal experience, and receiving timely, high-quality, and safe medical care is a priority you should expect.
I am thankful for all the feedback I receive from Veterans. Your voice is very important. Often, I feel that I could not do my job without the candid and frank conversations I have with so many of you.
A few weeks ago, I shared a Veterans experience update with you to highlight our trust score. This score is directly linked to survey results based on your experiences and your answer to one particular question, “I trust North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System for my health care needs.” Although our trust score has never been higher, I am committed to continual improvement. I value your trust as a top priority.
When meeting with so many of you, as Veterans often do, we share stories about our service and that of our comrades. These always are powerful exchanges that bring value and purpose to the work I do and the mission I am dedicated to.
One 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 largest VA health system in the country. However, before any of that, I was a United States Marine.
I served eight years and eight days on active duty as an enlisted Marine. It certainly was an honor to serve and follow in my dad’s footsteps. He also was a Marine, which on a personal level made my service even more special to me. As I’m sure you are aware, many of the stories shared among fellow Veterans also acknowledge the service of previous generations.
After my service with the Marine Corps concluded, I learned that because of my service I was eligible for VA health care. At the time, I really didn’t appreciate what that meant or how valuable it would be. I was still young when I got out of the service and health care was not something I even thought I needed. I remember getting a letter in the mail letting me know that I was eligible to receive VA services and thinking to myself that in five or six years I would reach out for an appointment. Well, instead, the VA pursued me! They contacted me to schedule a new patient primary care appointment. Why? Because VA is focused on preventive 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 is a relationship that emphasizes prevention rather than waiting for an issue to arise and then treating it. On that day of my first appointment, I realized how valuable this relationship can be and how that value has meaning ― not only to me, but also to other Veterans.
Health care, as it’s widely practiced in the United States, more accurately could be called “sick care.” Patients often avoid visiting their physician until they have an acute or urgent concern. However, it is generally more difficult and expensive to address conditions later in their progression. A situation such as this is further exacerbated by the complexity of military service-connected health issues. By shifting the focus from treatment to one of prevention and effective management, providers can help patients avoid many conditions or keep health issues from advancing.
As I mentioned, prevention helps reduce both the human and financial costs of illness, which certainly is desirable. However, it requires the coordination of multiple providers working together to effectively identify and prevent conditions while there still is an ability to make a difference. VA is THE leader when it comes to care coordination.
Once I signed up for VA health care, I was so impressed that shortly afterward I applied for and was selected for a job with the Veterans Health Administration. I told myself that I wanted to be part of an organization that was committed to Veterans and the prioritization of relationships as a core foundation of delivering health services.
I share this story because I want each of you to understand this perspective. I have used only VA health care for all my medical needs since 2005. I feel its important to point out that I am a federal employee and as such, I have access to federal benefits and comprehensive health care coverage. My federal benefits provide me with the means to access health care from anywhere. However, as a service-connected Veteran, I choose to access and receive all my health care from the VA.
I want my Veterans to know that I don’t just serve as an employee at North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System and then receive health care services elsewhere. I receive the same health care I oversee. I am invested in this health system to ensure the care that all Veterans receive continues to improve. As I age, I want a VA that is positioned, ready, and capable of caring for my health care needs when I need them most. I trust the VA and I would not hesitate one second to access care from the VA regardless of whether it was primary, mental health, surgical, specialty, or emergency services.
Back in 2005, after I completed my first VA primary care visit, I felt the same way as I do now. VA health care is about building a lifelong relationship and enabling Veterans to access VA throughout their entire life journey. As a patient, the Veterans Health Administration is a partner that I trust. As a member of this team, I am committed to improving and growing the services we provide for all Veterans.
Marine Corps Veteran
Executive Health System Director
North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System