Arlington, VA – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has quietly and reluctantly released quality-of-care ratings for hundreds of VA facilities across the country, after refusing to disclose this information to veterans and the American public for years.
The begrudging release of this information comes on the heels of a USA Today investigation that revealed the internal ratings of 146 VA facilities across the country. Historically, the VA has refused to make these ratings public, claiming they are meant for internal use only.
The newly posted data shows whether centers have improved compared with their performance a year earlier. According to the data, five hospitals had declined in the 2016 calendar year including facilities in Texas, North Dakota, California, and Wisconsin. Notably, performance ratings at the facility in Tomah, Wisconsin, had decreased. The Tomah VA has faced ongoing scandal for years, most recently for potentially infecting 600 veterans with HIV and hepatitis.
According to the secret ratings, many VA hospitals have remained “one-star” performers despite years of scandal, crisis, and millions in taxpayer funding. For example, the Phoenix VA was a one-star medical center when the news broke in 2014 that schedulers there were using secret wait lists to hide how long veterans were really waiting for appointments. To date, Phoenix is still a one-star facility, according to the VA.
Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) Executive Director Mark Lucas issued the following statement:
“It shouldn’t take a USA Today investigation to light a fire under the current VA leadership to do the right thing. The VA has an obligation to care for and honor the men and women who have served their country, and that includes being completely honest about the quality of care being provided. The VA should not have to come under pressure by the media to disclose what should already be public information – it sends a clear message that the VA is more interested in its public image rather than fixing the very serious and widespread internal problems. Transparency should be the rule, not the exception.”
CVA has routinely called for more robust auditing and increased transparency from the VA. The group fights for accountability measures, like the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act, which would make it easier to fire bad VA employees. CVA also advocates to empower veterans with choice over where and when to see a doctor and supports the Caring for our Heroes in the 21st Century Act, draft legislation introduced by Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA).