Complaints about VA care? Here’s what to do

The Veterans Administration Health Care System strives to provide exceptional customer service to patients, their families and visitors.

So when patients or others have concerns or complaints relating to patient care or safety at a VA health-care facility, the VA wants to hear from them. Whenever possible, the concerns and issues will be handled effectively, timely and at the point of care or service.

Patients, family members or visitors who have tried that and the issue still has not been resolved may ask to speak to the service-level patient advocate for that area.

If the concerns are more complex or require coordination between two or more services, they should contact one of the facility-level patient advocates during normal business hours, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The advocates for the New Mexico VA Health Care System, which includes the Durango VA Clinic, include Betty Vallejos, (505) 265-1711, ext. 2686; and Zane Wells, (505) 265-1711, ext. 2612. After hours, on weekends, or on holidays, the Administrative Officer of the Day (AOD), located in the Emergency Room, should be contacted at (505) 265-1711, ext. 2352.

Those who prefer to communicate their concerns and issues in writing may do so by writing a letter to George Marnell, Facility Director, New Mexico VA Health Care System, 1501 San Pedro Drive SE, Albuquerque, NM 87108.

Any patient, family member or visitor may also anonymously report a safety or quality-related issue using the Patient Safety Hotline by calling (505) 265-1711, ext. 5737.

If concerns that have been reported through the New Mexico VA Health Care System are not resolved, you can contact the Joint Commission by mail, phone, fax or email. You may either provide your name and contact information or submit your complaint anonymously.

Providing your name and contact information enables the Joint Commission to inform you about the actions taken in response to your complaint and also to contact you if they need more information.

The Joint Commission treats names as confidential information and does not disclose them to any other party. However, it may be necessary to share information about the complaint with the specific organization of concern during the course of the complaint investigation.

The Joint Commission policy forbids accredited organizations from taking retaliatory actions against individuals for having reported quality of care or safety concerns.

To contact the Joint Commission, call (800) 994-6610; fax (630) 792-5636; email complaints@iointcommisston.orq; or mail The Joint Commission, Office of Quality Monitoring, One Renaissance Boulevard, Oakbrook, Terrace, IL 60181.

People also can report suspected criminal activity, fraud, inadequate patient care, waste or abuse of government resources, or mismanagement of VA programs to the VA Office of Inspector General by calling (800) 488-8214. The Inspector General also may be contacted in writing at VAOIG Hotline, P.O. Box 50410, Washington, DC 20091-0410.

Richard Schleeter is the veterans service officer for the La Plata County Veterans Service Office. He can be reached at 759-0117 or schleeterrs@co.laplata.co.us.