VA opens call center for Valley vets

HARLINGEN — The opening of a new call center in Harlingen is showing positive impacts in the customer service the VA clinic is providing to Valley veterans.

The call center provides multiple services to veterans, including scheduling, message relay and preliminary customer service for the health care clinics in Harlingen, Corpus Christi, McAllen and Laredo.

Public affairs officer Reynaldo Leal said a lot of the time, veterans’ first interaction with the health care system is made via telephone, so they “want to make sure that their experience is a positive one.”

“It’s been just three days that we’ve had this call center up and running and we’ve already started to see improvements in how quickly we’re answering our phones and in the duration of the phone calls,” Leal said in a phone interview yesterday.

Within a month, the clinic receives anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 calls.

A few months ago, the health care system streamlined its telephone tree. The tree is all of the options people hear when they call this health care system. Callers can respond by pressing phone keys or speaking words or short phrases.

Its telephone tree list has gone down from 40 options to less than a dozen.

“A lot of (these improvements) were made after listening to veterans and what they really needed when they called and what we could have our representatives transfer them to,” Leal said.

After the healthcare system streamlined the phone tree, they continued to find ways to make their services better for veterans and their employees.

“That resulted in us doing something where, if all the clerks at the Harlingen outpatient clinic were busy or on the line or had a veteran in front of them, the calls would then roll over to the next available clerk,” Leal said.

“That clerk might be at another clinic, but we wanted to make sure that people were answering,” Leal added.

Leal said the new call center is not only helping Harlingen. It’s also helping its other clinics from Laredo to Corpus Christi to McAllen.

“It’s a big step for us and the VA is in a constant improvement cycle. We’re always wanting to hear from our veterans and always wanting to know what we can do,” Leal said.

Number: (855) 864-0516

Open: Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Closed: Weekends and federal holidays

Services available

  • Primary and specialty care scheduling
  • Direct scheduling
  • Message relay
  • Preliminary customer service