Fixing the VA: What a Disney Approach Could Do

Drastic measures need to be taken with the VA, and the Disney Way may be the best approach.

Beyond the comical mouse & friends, lies the pinnacle of business acumen. Individuals and companies spend big bucks each year to learn the secrets of Disney customer service, management, logistics, maintenance and more at Disney Institute, aka, Disney University.

SaluteMickey

Everything about the Disney Company is special, and successful. Of course, it’s all about the people, but then there’s the rub, isn’t it? The people make Disney special as much as the methods do.

I remember my father telling me repeatedly, as we frequently stopped a project to head to Sears for yet another Craftsman tool, “Right tool for the right job.”

One could easily say the same about people, or more specifically, employees. I say, “Right person, right job saves time and money.”

Disney invests in the person. Disney invests training, health care, benefits, frequent raises and vertical movement. Disney means quality. Disney means care. Disney means success.

What part of this does the Veterans Administration not need?

Exactly, they need all of it and more, fast.

Sending VA executives, managers, health care professionals, technicians, clerical and volunteers to Disney Institute may seem unnecessary and overkill, but why shouldn’t our veterans receive five star treatment and customer service? Remember, it’s about people.

Disney could help in other ways as well. The whole VA experience could be Disneyfied, from automated appointment making, to streamlined pharmacy operations; smartbands and housekeeping, parking, cuisine and yes, even entertainment. If the point is to get the veteran to the VA, then why not make it into a place that they want to be?

Short of having Disney characters in costumes at VA hospitals, Disney could infuse a little magic into the experience with state-of-the-art technology, from entertainment opportunities, moving walkways, fresh fruit and vegetable kiosks, petting places (where small mammals could be handled by vets for stress reduction), fitness centers, fitness pools, Jacuzzi’s, spa’s, bowling alleys, movie theaters, restaurants and coffee joints. OK, and maybe a meet & greet here and there?

Too frivolous, you say? Too expensive? How about the honorable veteran who wrote you a blank check for everything up to and including his or her life so that you can stay at home with your family and maybe take a trip to Disney World while he or she was out in the damn boonies getting their arses shot off?

Now whistle Dixie!

How do you infuse a quick fix while we rotate VA staff through Disney University? You activate medical National Guard and Reserve troops. Most medical personnel in the military are Guard and Reserve personnel. These part-time warriors are full time civilian health care professionals and workers, and could easily assimilate into the world of the VA medical system.

In fact, years ago, when I was serving with a US Army Hospital Reserve unit, we worked our drill weekends in the local VA hospital, and sometimes at the local state university hospital. Like fish in water, these reservists would fit right in. One big military family.

National Guard and Reserves typically do one weekend of service each month and then two weeks of training in the summer to meet minimum participation requirements. Why can’t this service be done in VA hospitals and medical facilities?

When I was hired by Disney back in the mid 1980’s for my dream job as a Davy Crockett Canoe ride attraction host, I went through Disney University (orientation). I will never forget the speech we got after watching the Disney Story in a small screening room. The lights came up and the trainer said, “So, what product does Disney sell?” Silence. “We sell happiness!” came the answer. “How do we sell happiness? By treating each person who walks through the front gates as if they were a guest in your own home.”

That was it. That was the secret to the Disney Way.

So, what’s so wrong with giving vets a little something they really deserve? A little happiness along with their health care. Vets have already paid for their E ticket, park hopper and annual pass; what’s left is a little TLC.

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