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Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion

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FAQs about Veteran Experience Center

What is the Veteran Experience Center (VEC)?
VEC is a quality improvement initiative supported by the VA's Comprehensive End-of-Life Care Initiative.  Its goals are:

  1. To improve the care of seriously ill Veterans across the VA system
  2. To define and disseminate processes of care (“Best Practices”) that contribute to improved outcomes (e.g., communication, spiritual support, symptom management) for Veterans near the end of life and their families

What are the main activities of VEC? 
The principal activities of the center include collecting and tracking data about outcomes of care (via the Bereaved Family Survey) based on staff who provide palliative care and hospice services at VA medical facilities and nursing homes. 

What is the Bereaved Family Survey? 
The Bereaved Family Survey (BFS) is a survey approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that provides data about families' perceptions of the care that the deceased Veterans received from VA inpatient facilities nationwide during the last month of life.

Who is the target population for the BFS? 
The target population is all bereaved family members of Veterans who died as inpatients in any VA hospital nationwide. 

Are VEC data available to researchers? 
VEC is NOT a research study. VEC is a VA-based quality improvement project.  However, since 2008 we have maintained a robust database containing variables encompassing Veterans’ clinical and demographic characteristics, process measures, and Bereaved Family Survey outcomes.  Secondary analyses of these data have been conducted by a variety of VA-affiliated investigators. Use of VEC data requires approval by the VEC, IRB review, as well as approval by VA National Data Systems (NDS) via the Data Access Request Tracker (DART). If you are interested in analyzing VEC data, please contact Dawn Gilbert at and Francis Nelson at Data can be accessed through the DART approval process (link). Further information about requesting BFS data access can be found here.

Is it possible for researchers to add questions to the BFS? 
No. All questions in the VEC survey have been approved by the Office of Management and Budget.  Items may not be added or modified without OMB permission.

Can we suggest wording changes to BFS questions?
The questions in the BFS survey have been through rigorous testing and have been approved by the Office of Management and Budget in the current form. Any changes to the BFS survey would require additional OMB approval.

How many surveys are necessary to draw meaningful conclusions about families’ perceptions? 
The Office of Quality and Performance (OQP) recommends having at least 30 surveys from different families at a facility for valid measurement.

When are results released? 
VISN Program Managers will receive quarterly reports from VEC (released on January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1). 

How do VEC staff respond if they identify families with unmet needs? 
The VEC staff offers family members the patient advocate phone number at the facility of the Veteran’s death for any financial or logistical needs. VEC also offers to contact the VISN Palliative Care Program Manager (PCPM) via a referral request for follow-up if the family member requests bereavement support or has a complaint about the care received. 


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