Quality Of VA Health Care

VA Health Care Quality: High Marks, But Access Delays Persist

[This article speaks to medical care internationally, not just medical care, Philippines.]

The health care veterans receive from the VA is as good as--and often better than--care provided by the private sector, according to recent reports. The problem is that many sick and disabled veterans face long waits to get the care they need.  Recently a change has been made to give those with service connected disabilities of 50 percent and over, priority care, a patch, not a fix for the under funded but still reasonably successful program.  Those with service connected disabilities less than 50 percent will be given preference in the as the health care program develops.

In a recent health care study VA performance data from 18 care categories, or indicators, were compared with similar data from managed health care organizations, government sources, and population-based surveys.

For 16 of those 18 indicators, the VA outcomes exceeded the "best-reported" performance data from health care organizations measured by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, Medicare Managed Care Plans, Centers for Disease Control surveys, and Health and Human Services National Center for Health Statistics.

"It's no secret to those who use the system that the VA provides top-quality health care to our nation's veterans," said DAV Washington Headquarters Executive Director David W. Gorman. "It is vitally important, though, that the Administration and Congress provide the VA with adequate resources to not only maintain quality but to ensure timely access by veterans to much-needed care."

Although there is no data available on the total number of veterans either waiting for initial appointments or to be enrolled for care, it is clear from reports received by the DAV that the VA is struggling with a growing backlog of new patients seeking treatment.

According to news accounts, some 4,000 veterans a month are being added to the waiting list at James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital in Tampa. While the VA Medical Center at Bay Pines in Pinellas County reported 12,000 people are on its waiting list.

Veterans in Lebanon, Pa., can wait anywhere from 6 months to a year to get care at the VA medical center there, a local television station recently reported.

"This nation's sick and disabled veterans are turning to the VA for necessary health care in record numbers," Mr. Gorman said. "It is a national tragedy, however, that these men and women often have to wait months to get an appointment because of chronic, persistent budget shortfalls. Why? Because for decades Washington has short-changed the veterans health care system budget."

Mr. Gorman said that changing veterans health care from a discretionary to a mandatory program would correct the existing problem where annual funding of veterans health programs falls far short of what is required to serve all eligible veterans.

"Instead of having veterans health care funding approved each year through the appropriations process, the resources needed to serve all eligible veterans would be provided automatically. Making veterans health care funding mandatory would eliminate the year-to-year uncertainty that has prevented the VA from adequately planning for and meeting the growing needs of veterans seeking treatment," Mr. Gorman explained.

"VA health care has come a long way in its more than 50 years of existence," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi. "This is a new VA, substantially different, profoundly better, and a recognized leader in providing quality health care. This data, in part, explains why so many more veterans are coming to us for their care."

"Today, VA is a health care industry that is highly competitive and in many areas leads the nation," said VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Robert H. Roswell.

The performance measure system is an evidence-based means to assure veterans receive the best care possible. Even in areas where comparable private sector data is not available, VA has made significant progress.

Clinical statistics only tell part of the story, the VA noted. For the second year in a row, independent surveys confirm that patient satisfaction scores for VA outpatient care top those received by private-sector health care providers.