By Jeff Lucas (Former Deputy Director, Baldrige Program)
In his second inaugural address President Abraham Lincoln spoke the words from the title of this post as he urged the then divided nation "to finish the work we are in and bind up the nation's wounds." Since 1930, the federal agencies charged with attending to the needs of the nation's veterans have been consolidated under the Veteran's Administration (VA). Today, the VA operates a nationwide network of services that include a health system that sees over 75 million outpatients each year, a benefits system that provides education benefits to over 500,000 people annually, and a home loan program that benefits more than 1.4 million families. And, just in case you were unaware, they also operate The Secretary's Robert W. Carey Performance Excellence Awards -- a Baldrige-based performance improvement and recognition program for entities that provide all of these critical services.
The Carey Awards use the Baldrige Criteria, but have adapted their review and award selection process to meet the unique need of the VA. They do recognize organizations with a set of tiered awards based on the level of achievement, very similar to that utilized by many of our state and local quality programs (Note to Baldrige Geeks: one of the organizations recognized this year at the Performance Achievement level was the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center, Richmond, Virginia -- employer of our former Baldrige colleague Jane Poulter!). In addition, they have provided their potential applicants with a number of great resources for planning and writing applications. These are available at the link above and would also be quite helpful for anyone submitting an application to a state award program or for the Baldrige Award. You can also find links to the presentations from this year's Carey Awards Symposium which featured a number of organizations familiar to the Baldrige community including: Heartland Health, North Mississippi Medical Center, and, not surprisingly, the VA Cooperative Studies Center.
One of the top three reasons that Baldrige Examiners give for the incredible amount of time that they volunteer to our program is the ability to provide service to their country. So, it should come as no great surprise that numerous members of our community also participate in the Carey Awards as examiners, judges and presenters at the Symposium. This year's cycle of awards is just getting ready to kickoff and the folks at the VA are always looking for experienced examiners to supplement their internal resources. If you are an experienced examiner at either the national or state level, live in the DC area, or have an employer who would be willing to fund travel expenses associated with this ongoing professional development (unfortunately the VA cannot cover costs for training or consensus, both of which take place in the DC area, but they do cover travel for site visits), and have not gotten your fill of writing feedback reports, contact Diane Burton at diane.burton [at] va.gov and she can give you more details.
Helping those who provide services to our war veterans "deliver ever increasing value" . . . hard to think of anything more rewarding than that.