VA's nursing home ratings transparency is a step in the right direction

VA's nursing home ratings transparency is a step in the right direction
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The Department of Veterans Affairs is achieving record levels of transparency, which is a vital step to improving care for veterans at VA nursing home facilities. 

These unprecedented improvements, and the many strides we are making to hold ourselves accountable and put our Veterans first, are all part of enacting President TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness, ballots and battling opioids: Why the Universal Postal Union benefits the US Sanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth MORE’s promise to correct the problems of the past. 

For example, twice in the last year, VA released data that measures ratings and performance at our nursing homes, otherwise known as community living centers. Release of this type of data is a first of its kind for the VA.

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We’re also working to help veterans and those in the media understand that, when comparing VA nursing homes to those in the private sector, the fundamental operating differences must be understood for the data to be properly evaluated.

Therefore, we intend to continue releasing our nursing home inspections and ratings as part of our broader effort to improve our performance. We understand this data will bring oversight and scrutiny and we welcome both. 

The fact is, like any health-care provider — including those in the private sector — VA nursing homes will encounter isolated problems and when we find them, we fix them. For example, as a result of our recent findings, we are conducting site visits to nursing homes that need improvement and boosting staff training as needed. And we are seeing results.

We expect nursing home data to show the kinds of successes and challenges that any large health-care provider has. The good news is that the information we have collected so far has are many positives.

Overall, VA’s nursing home system compares closely with private-sector nursing homes, though the department on average cares for sicker and more complex patients than do private facilities. Many of our patients carry the wounds of war.

Moreover, in comparison with non-VA facilities rated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, VA has a lower number of low-performing facilities and a higher number of high-performing facilities.

Additionally, private facilities often evict patients with complex medical problems, but VA never refuses service to any eligible Veteran, no matter how challenging his or her condition is to treat. 

For many of our older Veterans with complicated medical problems, VA nursing homes are the last facilities they will ever see. Caring for them is a solemn responsibility the men and women of our department take seriously and perform well.

As we continue to build greater transparency in our systems, we will also continue working with veteran groups and members of the press to help them understand and report the findings. 

We intend to stand proud when the data shows improvement and excellent service to our veterans and we’ll resolve ourselves to fix those areas that require more effort.

We’re now on track to release our nursing home ranking data each year as part of our effort to keep up the pressure on ourselves to improve. As we uncover problems, we are addressing them. And, as we find successes, we are working to duplicate them.

It’s a new day at America’s VA and we’re committed to excellence in all that we do for our veterans.

Robert WilkieRobert Leon WilkieTop conservative presses VA on allegations of retaliation against employees protecting whistleblowers The Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks Lawmakers demand VA fix emergency claims after report shows vets wrongly paid million MORE is secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @SecWilkie