A Summary of the VA Secret Files Scandal

In a recent USA Today story, it was reported that the Department of Veterans Affairs has been using what some would call a “secret” internal evaluation program. Within this program, certain facets of VA health networks were assessed and then graded on a 1-to-5 rating scale. Given the past problems identified with the VA healthcare system, withholding these reports has caused a lot of veteran activist groups, and some lawmakers, to question the decision to keep this information from the public.

The main issue is the number of 1- and 2-star facilities, many of which were identified as providing substandard care in the past, still not improving. In response, the VA has said that these scores are “relative” and do not necessarily mean that a 1-star facility is “bad or failing.” Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert A. McDonald has since responded to the newspaper saying that the story ignored the many improvements that VA has made during the last two years. He also said it was “egregious hyperbole” for the paper to say that these internal reports were a “secret” program.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has said it has used these star-rating systems for years, and that the rating is based on the quality of care and service each facility provides. The agency also says that it has never released this information to the public as these rating for only used for internal metrics.

Currently, the VA determines the ratings for 146 of its medical centers. This is done on a quarterly basis, and rates facilities on a variety of matters such as infection rates, number of deaths, medical complications that could have been avoided and wait times.

veterans-affairsAccording to the USA Today story, in which the paper says it obtained internal documents that detail the ratings, the lowest-performing medical facilities are located in Texas and Tennessee. The VA hospitals located in El Paso and Dallas, TX, along with those in Memphis, Nashville, Murfreesboro, TN, all received 1 star out of 5 for performance as of June 30, which is the most recent ratings period available.

VA facilities in New York, Massachusetts, South Dakota and Minnesota were among those receiving 5 star ratings.

Of particular interest to veteran activist groups are the number of low ranking facilities that were identified in the past still remaining in the low category. For example, when the Phoenix VA hospital was identified as a problem facility back in 2014, it had a 1 star rating. The latest report still has it as a 1 star hospital even though a lot of money was sent its way over the last two years.

One of the most egregious parts of this whole thing is the excuse that the VA has been using as its defense. In essence, it has been saying that they withheld information because they did not want to scare or worry vets who may need care. In other words, if a vet knew he or she had to visit a low-ranking facility, they might not go to it at all.

Critics respond saying that vets, and even members of Congress, need this information if they are to tell if a particular facility is improving or declining in its healthcare efforts.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Robert Partain

Robert Partain has been a professional writer for over 25 years. He spent ten years on active duty in the Army working as a medic and training NCO. While he covers any topic associated with military life, he specializes in writing about legislation that can affect active duty service members and veterans. Robert currently lives in the small town of Arab, Alabama.
Robert Partain

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