Study after study has shown that Veterans Affairs hospitals are superior to private-sector hospitals in providing care to our wounded warriors, and surprise inspections of nearly 200 VA facilities across the country confirm that VA is getting better at what it’s doing.
The unannounced visits to 139 VA hospitals and 47 out-patient clinics were conducted between October 2014 and September 2015 by the Joint Commission, a highly respected independent organization that accredits and certifies health care organizations in the country.
VA facilities were judged on several key benchmarks including access to care, timeliness of care, coordination of care, leadership, culture of safety, staffing, and staff competency.
The wait list scandal was the perfect opportunity for lawmakers with an anti-government agenda to promote the dismantling and privatization of the VA. Many claimed that the department was so broken that it could never be fixed.
But, the Joint Commission's report is more proof of what we already know:
Veterans prefer VA hospitals over for-profit private sector hospitals.
While powerful special interests and their allies in Congress are pushing veterans out of the VA system into the hands of for-profit private hospitals, veterans don’t want to go along with it. The Commission tracked more than 2,000 patients and found that “Although implementation of the Choice Act occurred in the latter phase of the project, early discussions with veterans indicated a strong preference, and even a loyalty, for their “own” VHA organization, even if it would mean waiting longer to be seen.”
That’s not a surprise since veterans see VA hospitals as their communities where they connect with other veterans. Private hospitals are also not appealing to them as some veterans reported receiving significant bills for the care they received at a private hospital. Many reported they couldn’t get appointments at a private hospital earlier than they could at a VA hospital.
VA hospitals are doing better and better every day.
The Veteran Health Administration is the largest health care provider in the country. Its mission is to provide the best care to veterans with continuous efforts to keep improving, and it appears the efforts have paid off. Across the entire VA system, the Commission identified 225 “requirements for improvement,” most of which have already been addressed.
According to the VA, the agency has hired nearly 14,000 additional health care providers, opened up 3.9 million more square feet of clinical space, and offered 20 million additional provider hours of care for veterans since 2014. From July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016, the VA completed more than 57.85 million appointments – a 1.1 million increase from the same time period in 2014-15. They are now completing 97 percent of appointments within the clinically indicated or veteran’s preferred date, and veterans report a 90 percent satisfaction rate with getting appointments when they want.
Staffing shortages still need to be addressed.
Because of an increased demand for care from soldiers returning from wars, the VA is doing their best to hire staff as fast they can. According to the Commission, VA facilities in rural and remote areas had more difficulty recruiting and retaining health care providers. Hospitals in metropolitan areas faced a different challenge – competing for quality staff with local hospitals. As new staff were hired, the waiting times improved.
“AFGE is proud that the staffing issues that have been pushed to the front burner by our union are being addressed aggressively,” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. “We applaud the VA for taking the issue seriously. Our veterans deserve the best care in the world, and we at AFGE are committed to helping make it happen.”
Want to learn more about AFGE’s and veterans’ efforts to protect health care for veterans? Visit www.afge.org.