Crisis PR Expert Dobson Calls on VA to Improve Communicating About Wait-times Affecting Veterans

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VA misread signs media would uncover wait-time problems & should have taken corrective action

Crisis PR preparation often uncovers predictable problems.... America’s veterans are waiting too long for VA medical appointments and the problem has been known for years.

If the Veterans Administration had properly prepared for crisis, it could have fixed the massive wait-time problems that have caused public criticism about some veterans dying during waiting time to see a VA doctor, announced Crisis PR expert Brian Dobson of Dobson Communications, online at The VA misread signs media would uncover wait-time problems and should have taken corrective action, he said in calling on the VA to step up its preparedness efforts to avert future systemic problems.

"Preparation is vital for prompt, effective action to handle problems, communicate key messages and show leadership, but the VA was ill-prepared and too slow to correct the long waiting times at the nation’s VA Medical Facilities," said Dobson.

“America’s veterans are waiting too long for VA medical appointments and the problem has been known for years. Perception is reality, and for the VA the perceived reality is one of slow response and bureaucratic indifference. The services provided by the VA may be excellent from a medical perspective, but administratively the VA appears out of touch,” said the Crisis PR expert.

An Army veteran, Dobson who has appeared on media reports about Crisis PR, said, “Examples abound of mismanaged crises, yet the world’s largest medical operation with 150 VA facilities, failed to learn from other recent crises such as BP being slow to communicate about its vast oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Toyota and General Motors letting consumers initially wonder about scope of car recalls and Mattel’s early effort to avoid responsibility for leaded paint and dangerous small magnets on some toys, among many others. Each began to rebuild image only after communicating consistently and factually.”

VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, a retired 4-star General of distinguished service has been criticized for a perceived lack of urgency in fixing the problem of prolonged wait times for medical service, in some cases lasting months. Some VA hospital administrators reportedly faked wait time reports to VA headquarters.

“Reports of veterans who died waiting for medical appointments has cast a shadow on the VA and heartbreak in homes of America’s heroes who suffered as a result of wait times at some VA facilities,” he said.

“It’s as predictable as lightning; crisis will hit companies, institutions and government agencies. How you prepare for crisis makes the difference,” added Dobson, who has managed crisis PR on many occasions. Crisis PR preparation often uncovers predictable problems, leading to efforts to fix problem areas,” said Dobson. A former journalist for Dow Jones and Reuters who entered PR at the New York Stock Exchange during its crisis years and then headed PR at two consumer product companies including a Fortune 20, Dobson’s agency, Dobson Communications, is in Ridgefield, CT and online at

"It takes years to build a brand but poor response to crisis can damage an institution’s image quickly,” said Dobson who advised five steps to follow preparing for a crisis:

1. Commit to communicating concisely, consistently and clearly in messages limited to the CEO or PR professional. Initiate news to be part of early reports, not chasing or clarifying what others say.
2. Form a Crisis Committee of top officers with a public relations consultant for perspective.
3. Prepare questions and answers to anticipate and fix problems before they develop,
4. Be ready with facts, backgrounds, updates and answers for consumers, media and regulatory agencies to employees, suppliers, distributors, and retailers.
5. Have lists of media, police and emergency, state and federal regulators, suppliers, distributors and retailers along with other key stakeholders, and keep them posted about developments.

Based in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and online at, Dobson Communications is a full service public relations agency in brand building and other areas of PR. The company has managed a variety of PR campaigns in sectors from consumer products, toys and food to licensing and high tech. It has handled Crisis PR and advised in various crises. In addition to its brand building PR, provides media training preparedness at its video studio, part of JHD-Dobson, where it also produces product and issue videos for companies. For information contact Barbara Dobson at 203-894-9240 or BD (at)

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Barbara Dobson
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