Disneyization of Veterans Affairs

Veterans Affairs Wants A Disney Run Hospital

Disneyization of Veterans Affairs

Benjamin KrauseFour weeks ago, we first heard Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald has been pushing Disney ideals onto veterans, and that the Disney love affair did not start with him.

RELATED: VA to tap Disney for ‘Disneyization’ of Veterans Affairs?

For at least five years, Disney has heavily courted VA leadership into going full bore Mickey Mouse as confirmed most recently with the firing of Phoenix VA leader Sharon Helman. Helman was fired not because of the wait list fraud that killed many veterans but instead her acceptance of a free trip to Disneyland with her family of many, many kids valued at more than $10,000.

SEE IT: FBO contract offer between Disney and VISN 18

Disney is apparently behind the MyVA and ICARE platform proposed by Secretary McDonald to help VA employees be friendlier with veterans and their family members.

Just last week, VA began circulating indications of its next steps to indoctrinate VA employees into the Disney ideal. To give some insight, here is an excerpt from an email I received from an insider about a Disney expert named Fred Lee who will be presenting to VA employees about ‘Disneyization’ of themselves:

“Mr. Lee is a nationally recognized expert and consultant in the patient and family experience.  He is the author of the best-selling health care leadership book, “If Disney Ran Your Hospital, 9 ½ Things You Would Do Differently.”  His career in hospital management and expertise in quality improvement has changed the language of patient satisfaction in hospitals, and introduced experience based improvement to change management and staff engagement.”

The book by Mr. Lee has 4.5 fives stars, and my initial impression is that something with 4.5 stars and 100 ratings cannot be that bad.

So what does all this mean?

It means Secretary McDonald is making some major changes by more or less publicly endorsing Disney as the new “Veterans Affairs” guiding light; Disney is the Jiminy Cricket of the future VA customer service model.

But I am somewhat concerned that we do not know more about this rather substantial cultural shift that seems unusual for an agency charged with taking care of our nation’s injured war heroes.

It would be like DoD taking advice from Barbie made by Mattel. Or maybe that is an over-reach. Nonetheless, what really matters here is what you think.

Is this new Disney model the direction VA should be taking? Or, are taxpayers moving into uncharted territory by hiring big media pull one over on those who need real and effective care?

You tell me.

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  1. Michelle Obama is endorsing the Disney model of service to veterans – so much so that she’s already put her stamp of approval on the project.

    One has to wonder – how has this all come to be?

    1. If the Disney approach does not work out they can always go to the Ringling Bothers Barnum & Bailey Circus model where they can really send in the clowns. The VA office will be located inside a big tent, the bearded lady can be the Va claims rep, while the jugglers move your paperwork around, you will be forced to walk on the tightrope (without a net!) and you will be have to breathe in the scent of elephant dung and maybe dive through the rings of fire as well. Oh happy day!

  2. Is this Disney model going to teach all of the VA’s foreign doctors with ESL to speak English??

  3. The VA, if it’s EVER going to be successful in addressing Vets needs is going to begin with getting rid of the adversarial system as a business model…They need to realize that their function is to DELIVER benefits and services, not keep Vets from receiving what they bled and died for…And the key to doing that is removing civil service protections and firing , not giving bonuses, to incompetent administrators.

    1. “The key is” NOT “removing civil service protections.” Everyone is entitled to due process. There are thousands of VA employees that work very hard to deliver quality healthcare to our Veterans. Reducing Bonuses to undeserving managers is a good idea.

      1. You may be correct, but there are also tens of thousands who do not know what the words, “quality health care” mean. The words “due process” do not really pertain to those who do not have even a rudimentary understanding of the services they are supposed to be delivering.

      2. Not to be harsh Robert but I will support due process for VA employees when they support due process for the very vets they are supposed to be helping. Vets often fight for years for due process in the claims process that is often stacked against vets. Vets are not allowed due process when the VA holds their little kangaroo courts and red flags a vet. Vets are allowed little due process when an incompetent VA provider declares the vet unable to handle their own affairs based on their own opinion.
        I will give a damn about due process for VA employees when I see vets given due process, and the blatant violations of their rights are stopped.

  4. Dear Benjamin Krause,

    Thank you for your service, I would also would like to hear your opinion about the legal issues in reference to the recent change in policy by the VA Office of the Inspector General aka Pinnochi-OIG and there change in releasing closures of the Administrative Investigations. on their website. It sounds as though it is another Whitewash attempt to put it back on the VA and potentially hiding wrongdoing and criminal activity by stating that ” The agency has acknowledged the deficiencies and took corrective action” as a reason to close the administrative record. The Disney Effect has been going on sometime in the VA when they are in the spotlight by the media and other veterans groups who expose these problems. The VA needs to be investigated regarding the Behavioral Flag committees that are being formed at the facilities that are unconstitutional. I am sure many vets are flagged with these bogus claims by VA personnel who report the vets who complain or have very damaging claims against the VA. The ironic thing about the Disney characterization is that I refer it to the “Gameshow Host” effect, because you can walk into any VA and the the director will have that stupid Gameshow Host smile on his or her face, which you know is a very fake smile and will have that same stupid look on their face on a 4ft x 5 ft picture on the wall. Imagine coming home from a hardcore tour in Afghanistan and being discharge and the first thing you see at the VA is a Welcome Home sign , and next to it is that look. Just a thought but true. There is a lot of malfeasance in the VA, but the key to change is legislation. I filed a criminal complaint against the VA and the OIG recently and haven’t received a response as of yet, but I am pretty sure it got their attention. Under Title 18 , 241 and 242 there are a lot of things that will trigger events within the Supreme Court if a veteran files a complaint under the criminal statues vs the civil actions related to Tort Claims. The Agencies involved, such as HHS. and the Professional Medical Boards of each respective State will try to stall you through that 2 year statuatory period if you have not filed that N95 with the VA. Otherwise, I think this Disney theme seems to be another collective measure tied directly to recieve bonuses. They will use it as a pervue of having a “scorecard” to justify their bonuses under the pretext of “retaining professional talent.

    Again, Thank you for what you do! (hand salute)

  5. If by Disney, this means that the VA will be patient friendly and VA facilities will be immacuate then maybe this corporate philosophy is worth the shot.

    Think about your last visit to Disneyland or Disney World. The parks are always kept spotless by the cast, i.e., staff. Disney staff are always courteous and helpful to park visitors. Even if you are stuck waiting in a long line at the Matterhorn, Disney cast members are usually around dressed as cartoon characters to keep you entertained until you get to the front of the line.

    At a Disney park, the experience is centered around the individual visitor. The Disney cast members cater to what each park visitor wants and expects to experience.

    One reason why Disney can pull this off is because it is a private enterprise. Disney employees who can’t cut it are let go, immediately.

    I wonder if this corporate philosophy can even significantly transfer over to a federal bureaucracy like the VA. The super vast majority of VA employees and tenured govt. workers whom firing would literally require an act of Congress signed into law. The lack of an incentive to perform at the level of a Disney cast member means that many VA workers will just opt to do as little as possible without fear of repercussions.

    1. Your last paragraph said it all. When a Disney employee screws up it’s hasta la vista. When that happens at the VA, pigs will fly,

    1. Did you know that Service Employees International Union, the exclusive representative in several VA Hospitals, actually represents Disney employees? Many union officials have studied Labor related topics at Disney University.

  6. Can anyone here imagine if Sloan Kettering, The Mayo Clinic, or even your local medical center made an announcement they were going to partner with Disney? I bet the outcry at the stupidity would be deafening. Instead, find qualified doctors and nurses who are passionate about their profession or let veterans go to private care.

    To tell the truth, even though 100% P & T, I am just tired and disgusted with the treatment at the VA. The doctor in charge of all the Primary Care doctors at my VISN is also my personal PCP. Most people would say I got the best there is – after all he was promoted over all the other doctors for this position. And if you said that you would be wrong. He has lied on my health record on at least three separate occasions. His nurse is no better. I started to write the privacy officer at my VA to have the record either changed or ammended. Then I realized, I have better things to do with my time and better doctors are available in the private sector. Why go through these hassles for third world care?

    Yes, I pay deductibles, about $2500 in the past year. But, at the private doctors I go to, I am treated with respect and have confidence in their treatment. I only continue to go to the VA guy (once a year) so I can get my meds.

    You must have confidence and trust in your medical care – wherever you receive it. I believe wholly that confidence and trust are earned, as is distrust and lack of confidence. The VA succeeds quite nicely at invoking those later feelings.

    1. Regarding not writing the Privacy officer…I just recently did exactly that because of a nurse assigned as my PCP who also falsified my records. The response I got was a copy of my notes where they removed any answer I disputed. It essentially looks as if she did nothing wrong. Their letter said I can request a copy of my letter be attached to any release of my records. Real big of them. At least it is documented.

  7. Disney is known the world over for being “the most magical place on earth.” If they can make me feel even 10% of that towards my VA healthcare, I would be a happy camper. We can’t be afraid of failure folks…the system is already broken. Give it a chance. We all know that customer service is just a part of what is broken at the VA, but it’s really difficult to change everything at once….they need to attack one issue at a time. My hope is that when they are done fixing the customer service, they will then focus on all of the other issues at the VA (long wait times for appointments, inferior approved medications, and outdated medical records system.

  8. VA to tap Disney for ‘Disneyization’ of Veterans Affairs?
    Do any of you brilliant “experts” have a better idea?
    At least there is an attempt to improve the VA. Maybe all you experts should give it a chance.

    1. Yes. Surveying veterans throughout the VA with answers mandated to go to Directors, VISN directors all the way to HQ.
      VA is federal. A federal law mandating reporting to State medical license entities who oversee private medical providers. If a VA medical provider of any kind screws up, it is mandatory to report it for investigation.
      Proper Congressional oversight. No more of these good ol boy hearings where nothing changes.
      Management at all levels held accountable. If they screw up, the manager above them is mandated to investigate and take action. If serious negligence is found, suspension, firing, directed reassignment, etc. should all be available. Any cover-up results in both managers immediate firing.
      Veterans Oversight Boards at each hospital, clinic, etc. comprised ONLY of veterans to act as ombudsmen for other vets. These boards would have rotating terms of 3 years, with no member serving more than 1 term consecutively.
      Doing any 1 or all of these would start cleaning up the VA. Something more concrete than just improving the atmosphere.

      1. Dan, I agree with you, all VAMC’s already have Upper Management and Line worker Clowns working for them…Why should we be punished as veterans to participate in what will be considered free admission to treat us a on going rides with longer wait times…All VA Sec McDonald is doing in my opinion is aligning himself with a Disney Career after the VA…

  9. One of the places that the Disney Model aka Patient Centered Care has become a buzzword is Roudebush VAMC in Indianapolis. The hospital’s “Leadership Team” even lists a Chief, Office of Patient Centered Care as one of its members. Disneyfication did nothing to stop Robin Paul from sending her infamous e-mail. Neither did signing Bob’s highly touted “I CARE” pledge.

    Fixing customer service at the VA is like putting a fresh coat of paint on a crumbling building. It might look better on the surface than it did, but the pipes are still rusty, the wiring is faulty, and the structure itself has lost its integrity. All Bob is talking smack about with Disneyfication is slapping on a second coat of the same paint!

    Without integrity, even the greatest customer service initiatives will be a farce. Roudebush’s Patient Centered reaction to what Robin Paul did? Based on what I’ve read, I think it was something like, “Oh, let’s make sure the veterans don’t see THIS! It would make them upset.”

    Bob is marking time by treating the symptoms and trying to make us think he is attacking the cause of the VA’s malignancy. It’s time for everyone in Washington to admit the VHA is beyond fixing and reach a consensus on how to rebuild it from the ground up.

    1. Usedto, I go to the so called Roudebush VAMC in Indianapolis and I agree 100% with what you say. I still am waiting for the next inspection of this VA. I am sure they will find it to be a super place because it is so messed up. Come to think of it , the whole VA system is messed up so hey, why not let Disney have at it. No, not really, I think that there has to be something that can help it has not been found yet.

      1. Hi figure8fan. Glad to see you’re still KATN on this site. Hope you’re doing well.

        Our good friends, the Roudebush patient advocates that we have posted about on this site, fall under the Office of Patient Centered Care. Last year, I tried going over the the patient advocate’s head by calling the Chief Disneyfication Officer. Her outgoing voice message said she was out of the office, and to call the patient advocate if your problem couldn’t wait. I left a message anyway. She never called back. Neither did the patient advocate. Maybe they were at a photo shoot with Robin Paul…

      2. usedto, I am so tired of messing with these people. The Patient Centered crap is just that. I too have tried to complain and have received the same treatment. If this is how they are wanting to use the Disney model then we are is so much trouble. I have complained several times about Robin Paul and I have not received a single reply to acknowledge my concern. I am so fed up with this place thinking they are God and can do no harm. It is fitting for the VA to use this as it will not help the Veteran and will only help in the VA making itself look better and therefore will receive larger bonuses. They have to use the (NO) Choice Card money somewhere.
        The photo shoot was most likely in FL. or CA. and the trip was paid for by us.

      3. …Do you think they used Sharon Helman’s travel agent?

        Seriously, if you or anyone you know has had some firsthand dealings with Sharon Paul that the VA would not address, perhaps the Indiana Attorney General’s office will listen while Paul is being investigated. I think if you call their Consumer Complaint line at 800-382-5516 or 317-232-6330, they can help. That office handles complaints against health care professionals.

        The AG’s physical office is at 302 W. Washington Street, 5th Floor in downtown Indy between Senate and West in case you’re in the neighborhood. I’m not sure if they are set up for visitors…

  10. The VA is going to open a brand new hospital 15 miles from Disneyworld in Orlando where there is no existing hospital or existing hospital staff.
    Here is there opportunity to do the “Disney experiment”

  11. McDonald is probably getting kickbacks from his corporate pals at Disneyland just like his employees for pushing his mickey mouse model The model is so unknown and so unexplained to anyone that it doesn’t deserve funding whatsoever Congress should put a stop to it If the VA and McDonald have money to throw around on a mickey mouse scheme they should be putting that money via con tress into a 3 year 10 billion dollar CHoice program with no strings to it and no mileage that allows all veterans a real choose or putting that money into expanding the Family Caregivers Act of 2014 to include all pre 911 veterans and their wives and families to $2500 per month for attendant care/homemaker services and also free health care . It just shows you the amounts of age discrimination from our legislators. Pre 911 Veterans fighting to get these benefits since they have been excluded should join us for our civil right lawsuit that the law is unconstitutional based on age discrimination .Ben should be taking such lawsuits on and also to the United Nations Civil Rights Commission and World Court in behalf of all veterans …Unfortunately few if any lawyers in our culture do anything even pro bono or for civil rights. Most veterans law clinics and disability law clinics for people with disabilities are nothing more then informational and refferal mechanisms

    THe VA is out to lunch and this is only to line McDonalds and other peoples pockets Stop the window dressing waste of money Change the laws Allow choice for all persons with disabilities meaning access and no strings to private care for all veterans . Make laws that state all federal, and state facilities must have certified licensed doctors and that unsupervised interns and physician assistants cant do C and P exams nor do diagnosis and treatment unless on site licensed doctors with no displinary action or complaints or lawsuits are hired. This lis the way one improves care not via some mickey mouse program that is window dressing and that no one can even understand .

    Lee Horowitz, M.Ed, CAGS
    US Navy Disabled Vietnam Era Veteran
    Vetrans-disabled veterans advocate and civil rights advocate
    Contact : [email protected] to join us

    1. Lee, I appreciate your passion, but that is not the kind of law I practice as a solo practitioner – I do not practice at the World Court. As a solo, class actions are not in my wheelhouse and even if they were, what you suggest is still outside of the area of law I practice. Further, bringing those kinds of lawsuits can be very, very expensive – like seven figures – this is a sobering fact few critics of small firm lawyers realize. IT COSTS A LOT OF MONEY TO DO WHAT YOU SUGGEST, AND WHO WOULD PAY FOR MY RENT, STUDENT LOANS, BILLS AND FOOD WHILE I SPEND MY ENTIRE TIME WORKING PRO BONO?

      No, I will not be taking on the kinds of cases you suggest and since it’s still a free country, I do not need to. I will instead be writing about veteran issues and informing the public at large while also representing individual veterans against the VA. I think I have enough on my plate.

      Lee, why don’t you go to law school, start your own firm, and then represent veterans in whatever manner you like? That is what I did and I’m living that dream right now – and for the record I do a lot of pro bono work for individual veterans. I also get paid for my legal work when it makes sense.

      It is a lot easier being critical of what you think others should be doing than to take ownership of your situation and fix it yourself. In this day and age of easy student loans, you should have no problem setting up your own international civil rights law firm in 5-10 years after completing law school on your own. Again, it is very, very easy to point the finger at others while demanding that they somehow waive a magic wand to fix a 200 year social injustice. I have my own fights I picked. You can pick yours. We still live in a free country.

      1. Ben why is Gary Kendall doing a civil rights law suit for all veterans and he has not asked for money Yet he needs a lawyer just to get it it to court so he can then do all the work in the court itself . A court does not allow individuals to represent themselves alone without a lawyer who we expect to just be there so to speak but no lawyers will even do that. When was the last time any lawyer ever did civil rights or malpractice cases that are clear cut against the VA.

        In fact it would only take a brief to get it into the United Nations Office of Civil rights for all veterans . Part of this a problem is lawyers who talk the talk but never walk the walk have you ever Ben taken even one case pro bono. You never answered this forum in terms of promising that you would debate LT Col Dan Gade except to say you would but it will never happen. So why make a promise you cant fulfill Its about your time and being paid even if your travel expenses were paid??

        Dan Toliver MSW and potters have questioned you about this

        Yes Ben I wanted to go to college to be lawyer but Vocrehab denied me that opportunity when I couldn’t even find a job with the VA despite over 100 SF 171 submitted As I was told I dont qualify for any position at the VA except as a vocrehab counselor despite me expertise in disability and aging and mental health.

        It is also why we had avery bad experience trying to do anything with EPVA and NPVA.

        Would you pay part of my way or give me a partial scholarship to go back to school to be an attorney . I donate my time doing counseling, psychotherapy and working with people with disabilities and advocacy work Yet I dont ask to “get paid”

        If you would put part of your donations towards pro bono work or helping some of these vets on your blog with direct legal help I and many others would donate to the cause of your non profit but I am suet your donations are not a “501c3 non profit” and are used by you directly.

        You say you look at things on an individual basis but as Dan Toliver and I and others have pointed out in 2 years seeing your blog you have never criticized one traditional veterans groups and their stands on non privatization of the VA and their support for passage of the Choice P{program with strings attached that they knew would fail and thus sabotoge any privatization including the Choice Program. You have never fully discussed the symbiotic -co-dependeny between traditional veterans groups and the VA Its why they are loosing members Go some time to their meetings at the grass roost levels.

        Ben its very clear to me you need to join my national committee for veterans with the National Council on Independent living to fully understand the types of advocacy work and how we do advocacy and protests, marches, etc with persons with disability and disabled veterans . It is the Centers for Independent Living that are the true advocates for persons with disabilities and for disabled veterans

        Lee Horowitz M.Ed, CAGS
        US Navy – 100% disabled Vietnam Era Veteran
        Veterans Advocate and Veterans Civil Rights Advocate

        Your an attorney why are you not out organizing and speaking to college law students/faculty to do pro bono work for veterans ( not just another information and referral center)

        One other things you mentioned you had loans to go to school I find that full of it when in fact you went to college under chapter 31 full time Ben That means this : You received 100% disability compensation. You received full time Chapter 31 Vocrehab pay. You receive dup to 250 hours of VA work study on campus or elsewhere every semester while in college full-time at minim wage non taxable You received all books, all supplies and all ended equipment for classes i.e. computers, calculators, law books if required , etc all paid by VA Vocreab and all supplies, You received priority to medical; treatment if you needed dental, g;asses, or anything that could keep you out of class, You received tutoring paid for if you needed it for a course, and in addition you received despite payment of college tuition and fees any free grants and state grants based solely on veterans status. So tell us how you needed loans to go to college??

      2. Lee, your entire position is based on the false premise that I have additional bandwidth to drop all my commitments including writing and research that drives this website to embark on what you tell me I need to do. I do plenty of pro bono work as do many other attorneys. It sounds like your upset that I am not working on the pro bono work you demand of me. But again, we live in a free country. I suggest you look elsewhere for the pro bono work you seek.

  12. 03/18/2015

    Dear Benjamin Krause,

    Anyone who has been around this government has a feeling of abandonment [just ask former congresswoman Jane Harman].

    Has anyone thought that it is no longer your government?

    What did Davos have to say this year?

    What are the Central Bankers saying, or not saying? [2013, 100 year contract]

    What are are Neighbors up to NAFTA/Super highways/NAU?

    What happen to our internet?

    Old Lou Dobbs was not spitting this stuff out for nothing back in 2005.

    What are China, Japan, and Britain doing since they own $7 Trillion of our debt, about the annual income.

    Since Disney was opened on July 17, 1955, with young Ronald Reagan as an announcer, America has been stumbling around on opiates and they just hope you stay in line for this last final ride.


    Don Karg

    1. ^+
      But…it will be Veterans actually dying IN LINE FOR THE RIDE.

      So, every VAMC will have absolutely NO problem adapting to the Dizzying Disney Model because after all, they each already have the “Space Mountain” thing down…occupy a lot of it, but are inefficient.

      Disney could apply a whole them to the VAMC’s, called after movie, “One Flew Over The Cookoo Nest”…that certainly would take care of the pseudo psych care..:-)

      I never liked Mickey Mouse…more of a “Pinky and the Brain” or “Ren and Stimpy”…Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy….see, I am already getting “Daffy”!

  13. They’re never going to convince me of a Disney type atmosphere at the VA. Nothing those people do now is ever going to change my opinion, thoughts, and feelings about the crap they forced on me, going back over 35 years ago. And I volunteered to go to Viet-Nam as a combatant in order to help my country out because I saw my country as not winning that war over there. I was only doing what I thought back then was the only right thing to do for my country. But to come back here with PTSD and then face a hostile society who hate me for what I did, and then get dragged through the mud at the hands of the VA who think all ‘Nam vets fit the television image; and that PTSD is some strange object in the sky, (something’s there but don’t know what it is). Nothing and I mean NOTHING those people are going to do now is going to make me feel like Alice in Wonderland!!!

    1. Yeah…the VA Disney Model of Alice In Wonderland would be the deep rabbit hole that always leads to the Mad Hatter…the Patient Advocate and the VA Psych would be The Red Queen…Off with their heads!
      I still think this whole Disney VA Collaboration stinks of bonus cruises and wait for it…VA Cruise scandals in the future where we will read about hundreds of millions of VA $$$$$$ going for so-called “Team-Building Disney VA Cruises”…while the wait list continues like the maddening droning of “It’s a small, small world….It’s a small, small world…!! Playing in every wait room over and over…

      My question is, why outsource? Do Home Land Security have to use the VA? If not, what’s their method of care? Why not give Veterans same care members of Congress get or better yet, MANDATE members of Congress to use the VAMC’s and we will indeed see change in a Magical Kingdom kind of way.

      It all seems Goofy to me.

    1. Except, the VA would slap khaki camouflage on Barbie and hope that it would disguise the glow of the green LED’s in her eyes anytime you make any sounds.
      I personally find the whole concept of theme parks a bit on the creepy side, and think the VA’s adaption of such would be more along the lines of “American Horror Story: Freak Show”….yeah, that’s entirely fitting because the freaks work at the VA and look at we Vets as if WE were the freaks.

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