VA cemeteries score highest-ever rating for customer-satisfaction survey

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Here’s some good news for a department experiencing its share of troubles lately.

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Cemetery Administration (NCA) scored the highest rating ever in a prominent customer-satisfaction survey, beating out all other federal agencies and even top corporations with a score of 96 in the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

That mark places the VA’s cemetery division 28 points higher than the 68-point average for all federal agencies, and it represents the highest rating this year for both the public and private sectors.

The Camp Butler National Cemetery in Illinois. (Veterans Affairs photo).
The Camp Butler National Cemetery in Illinois. (Veterans Affairs)

The index, developed by the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, measures customer satisfaction with the quality of U.S. goods and services across industries. The NCA has participated in the survey every three years since 2001, finishing first every time.

The news comes as a bit of relief for the VA, which has faced turmoil recently in other areas. The department has struggled to keep up with an influx of disability claims in the wake of two recent wars, and its senior executives face the prospect of losing their bonuses for the next five years after the House last week unanimously passed a bill to halt their performance awards during that time.

“Once again, this survey shows that employees at VA’s 131 national cemeteries are committed to providing world-class customer service for our  nation’s veterans and their families,” said VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki. “It is an honor to care for our nation’s heroes in perpetuity, and we use the highest standards of compassion and professionalism to ensure we commemorate their service to our nation.”

Interestingly, the NCA set a new record with its score despite a report last year that said agency had misplaced scores of headstones and buried at least eight people in the wrong places at several military cemeteries across the country, setting off congressional inquiries and a criminal investigation.

MORE: Burial problems found at VA cemeteries

VA cemeteries hold military personnel who died on active duty and deceased veterans who were not discharged dishonorably, as well as their spouses and eligible dependent children.  More than 4 million Americans are buried in the sites, located in 39 states and Puerto Rico.

The survey polled the next-of-kin and other individuals who arranged for the interment of loved ones in VA cemeteries during a period six months to a year before the study.

More than 70 percent of the cemetery division’s employees are veterans, according to the VA.

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks@washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics for more federal news. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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