Trust in Veterans Affairs programs rose dramatically over the last eight years amid department efforts to improve delivery of medical and disability benefits, according to new data released by agency officials on Tuesday.

Overall confidence in the department increased from just over half of users in 2016 (55%) to more than 80% this past quarter, based on figures in VA’s recurring Veteran Signals Survey. That report polled more than 38,000 veterans using a wide range of department services, including medical care, disability benefits, and home loans programs.

“This is meaningful because it is the voice of the veterans that we serve from across all different ages, service areas, locations, and demographics, telling us how we are delivering for them,” said Barbara Morton, deputy chief of the Veterans Experience Office. “We are measuring our performance based on how they feel about us, not just how we think we’re doing.”

Still, the result shows that nearly one in five veterans interacting with VA staffers aren’t satisfied with their efforts, a figure that VA Secretary Denis McDonough said still requires improvement.

“We judge ourselves, not on average, but on the individual veterans’ experiences,” he said. “And hopefully, that improves over time. By putting ourselves under the microscope and releasing the outcome of these assessments in quarterly releases, we think that will continue to grow this slope at a much, much steeper incline.”

VA has set a target of 90% in the trust score for the survey, a mark that officials acknowledged will still require another ambitious improvement.

VA’s overall trust number also reached almost 80% in early 2020, but has hovered just above 75% since then. The 80.4% mark recorded for the second quarter of fiscal 2024 is the highest since the start of the survey.

McDonough credited efforts across multiple administrations for the higher satisfaction numbers. About 80% of veterans surveyed last quarter said they received the care or services they needed when they reached out to VA, and 76% said accessing those options was not difficult. Both of those numbers are up from around 60% in 2016.

Tuesday’s news came two weeks after the Partnership for Public Service rated VA as the fifth best large federal agency for employees, with nearly 72% of staffers surveyed reporting satisfaction with their workplace in 2023.

That number was up more than 3% from the previous year and more than 15% above the survey level from 2016.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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