Report: VA ratings hide poor quality care from public

Over the years, the Veterans Administration has worked out a plan to erase the public reports of terrible treatment and conditions in VA homes, including a 2009 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review story about a home in Philadelphia where a veteran’s leg had to be amputated after an infection in his foot went untreated for so long his toes turned black and attracted maggots.

The VA now bans the release of reports documenting the problems.

The VA relies on a Wisconsin company to inspect the homes and report back to the agency. But unlike similar inspections of private facilities, federal law now prohibits the release of long-term care ratings.

Last week, under pressure from journalists, the Veterans Administration revealed “star ratings” of nearly half of its homes. The Boston Globe and USA Today report they show the rankings in 9 of 11 measures are worse than private nursing homes.

The Minneapolis facility got four stars, St. Cloud’s and Fargo’s got three. Sioux Falls was awarded just two.

But Minneapolis got just one star for quality, St. Cloud two, and Fargo three.

The VA has “got this whole sort of parallel world out there that’s hidden,” said Robyn Grant, director of public policy and advocacy at the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, tells the Boston Globe/USA Today team. “I still can’t get over that this information is not available to people who are looking for a veteran’s home; that’s just unacceptable.”

In its release of data, the VA said the health of its home residents reflects that they’re often sicker than those in private nursing homes.

The agency did not release the more detailed information that underlies the star ratings, such as rates of infection and injury, the USA Today/Boston Globe report said.

  • Al

    Public health relies on open and accountable providers, whether in the VA system, or in elder care, in hospitals, in clinics…

    • BJ

      How can you hold short staffed folks accountable? The staffing and administrative issues at the VA are legend.

      • Al

        Absolutely, but they’re also not mutually exclusive.

        • BJ

          Firing the head of the VA every few months can Congressional freeze on expenses. Coupled with a crazy procurement process that only the government can love.

          My company that I have worked at for the last 5 years has about 60% of our business with the VA and I can tell you it’s top down issues, not the other way around with them. Lots of great people on the ground.

          • Al

            This is absolutely a top-level problem.

    • Brian Simon

      Public health relies on adequate funding.

      When you send more people to war, VA expenses go up. Boosting demand for services (through war) while freezing/cutting funding = inadequate care.

      • Al

        100%.

  • Rob

    American Exceptionalism R Us.

  • chlost

    All I know is that friends and family members in the health care professions have said that the VA is one of the worst places to work and that they would never let a loved one be there if they needed extensive care.
    A military budget through the roof should be able to finance appropriate care for the members who have served. Patriotism which claims to support our troops shouldn’t end at their discharge from military service.

    • Jerry

      But it’s so much easier to create veterans than to care for them.

  • Josie

    I’m finding the news release and ratings on the VA’s website confusing. The ratings spreadsheet from the VA Website lists the “Minneapolis VA Medical Center” – this is not a nursing home. This is a medical care facility, I don’t believe anyone lives there. The Minneapolis Veterans Home, that is a few miles away, is ran by the State of MN not the federal government. Also, there is no Veterans Home in St. Cloud, however there is a (Federal) VA Health Care System there – again I don’t believe they provide long term care facility. From my understanding all five Veterans Homes in Minnesota are ran by the State of MN not the Federal Government.

    • AL287

      You are correct and they are subject to Medicare inspection regulations.

      The VA Medical centers may have what are known as “swing beds” a transitional care unit that prepares residents for discharge to home or to a private nursing home if they are not able to live independently on their own with support services after a major illness and/or major surgery.

      Many hospitals used to have these units but eventually closed them because they were no longer profitable.