Tom Note: I offer this note here from my friend, Army Maj. D.J. Skelton, because I have learned a lot from following his ups and downs as he deals with the multi-year consequences of being grazed in the head by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq.

I need help creating strategic questions to ask all users of the Department of Veterans Affairs and veterans who have used non-VA resources (such as non-profits) what worked for them and what didn’t work for them and their families. We have approximately 20 million vets alive today. I want to collect data from 25% of our population. Yup. That’s right. Five million veterans participating and contributing to creating a system that everyone can be proud of.

I will take ownership of creating, distributing, and collect and protecting this data. My team will then give that data to experts who will analyze it. This data will then be sent to the National Veterans Transition Foundation (which I am in the process of creating and will be the core team of a future Congressional Commission on the Future of Veterans Care in America).

I’m tired of talking and telling my story and not being taken seriously. I’m tired of being told I’m an anomaly and aside from my case, the system is working fine and it’s not broken. That’s not what thousands of veterans and VA staff have been telling me over the years. I’m tired of something as simple as a broken toilet paper dispenser considered not important enough to fix.

Everybody talks about collaborating and partnering and working together to improve the lives of our veterans, so let’s see who wants to play. Are you serious enough, courageous enough, strong enough to ask your veterans questions that risk exposing the true effectiveness of your organization, your hospital, your non-profit so that we truly understand the veteran’s experience from actual veterans themselves?! And then take a hard look at whether the service or product you provide to veterans is actually improving their lives or making it worse? Where exactly are the pain points? What exactly are the aspects of care that make the veteran and their family stressed, uncomfortable, confused, angry? It’s not so much what resources are provided but how that resource is delivered and implemented that needs to change.

Think about it. If just the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Wounded Warrior Project Disabled American Veterans U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Veterans of Foreign Wars VFW and The American Legion National Headquarters participated in this incredible effort to survey all of our veterans and their families, this would be the first time in modern history we would truly understand the veterans care experience in America…all of its good and bad. Then build a model based on that feedback. Wouldn’t that be something?


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OK, so who wants to play?

Email me if you have experience in national polling or surveying (yes there is a science to it…).

Email me if you are willing to send this survey to your members. 

Email me if you are in Congress and want to be a part of this. 

Email me if you have experience in storing big data in an organized way that is easily queryable and can help build the survey accordingly. 

Email me if you are a veteran, VA employee, caregiver or provider of a service or resource to veterans who want to share a more detailed experience that you feel can help. Just tell me if you want it kept anonymous or I can assign your info to your story. 

The timing is now. Let’s not wait another 20 years until historically the next major war will happen…another 20 years if Veterans suffering and struggling to get the care they need.

Let’s make a difference now! Let’s create a national model of veteran care that we can all be proud.

Maj. D.J. Skelton is a U.S. Army Foreign Area Officer at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He led an infantry platoon at Second Fallujah and later commanded an infantry company in Afghanistan. Yes, he was hit in the head by a RPG. It hurt.