Leaked Documents Reveal VA’s Ratings System for Hospitals
Jan 11, 2017
Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) January 11, 2017 – Leaked internal documents published for the first time by USA Today reveal that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) uses a secret ratings system to evaluate its medical facilities. The VA has never released the ratings for public viewing, claiming they are only for the agency’s internal use.
They show dozens of VA medical centers are performing at below-average levels. For years, the VA has assigned between one to five star ratings to hospitals, with five being the best. The ratings depend on factors such as the quality of care provided, appointment wait times and death rates.
“The lack of transparency over the ratings system is worrying. Veterans seeking health care at VA facilities have a right to know exactly what sort of standards they should expect from the hospital,” said Jim Fausone, a Michigan veterans attorney. “Patients and their families deserve to know how their local VA medical centers are performing and whether they are meeting expectations.”
Around 45 medical centers were rated above average with five stars. Many of the highest-rated facilities are located in Massachusetts, New York, Minnesota, South Dakota and other parts of the Upper Midwest and Northeast. VA hospitals in Tennessee and Texas are among the lowest performing with only one star out of five.
The documents also indicate that several lower-ranking facilities have failed to improve despite triggering nationwide scandals. The most notable is the Phoenix VA, which had just one star in 2014 when reports broke of veterans dying while awaiting care and staff manipulating data about appointment wait times.
VA Undersecretary for Health David Shulkin expressed uneasiness about the ratings system becoming public. “It is essentially a system within VA to see who’s improving, who’s getting worse, so we can identify both,” he explained. “My concern is that veterans are going to see that their hospital is a ‘one’ in our star system, assume that’s bad quality, and veterans that need care are not going to get care.”
According to Shulkin, the VA medical center in Detroit, Michigan, is the only one-star medical center that has failed to show improvement and deteriorated in overall quality. He said low-performing facilities are getting extra help from VA officials. Lack of progress could lead to hospital management being replaced.
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