The “most transparent administration” evah?
Although we haven’t heard much about it recently, the VA scandal is very much alive and well. The National Review published an article about the wide-ranging problems with the VA in April of this year. Here’s a quick reminder, neatly encapsulated in NR’s review of VA-related stories:
The Veterans Affairs–scandal headlines speak for themselves. The Daily Beast: “Veteran Burned Himself Alive outside VA Clinic”; azfamily.com: “Dead veterans canceling their own appointments?”; New York Times: “Report Finds Sharp Increase in Veterans Denied V.A. Benefits,” “More than 125,000 U.S. veterans are being denied crucial mental health services,” and “Rubio, Miller ask committee to back VA accountability bills.”
Two years ago this week [April, 2016]— thanks to courageous whistleblowers in Phoenix and a fed-up House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman — the world was finally exposed to rampant VA dysfunction and corruption. Dozens of veterans had died while waiting for care at the Phoenix VA — which was, unfortunately, just the tip of the iceberg. Across the country, VA officials had manipulated lists to hide real health-care wait times. In total, thousands — and possibly far more — met the same fate: waiting, and dying, at the hands of a calcified and soulless bureaucracy. Investigations were launched, and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki eventually resigned.
Rather than attempting to correct a wide array of serious problems–ranging from incompetence to corruption, the VA has instead and in defiance of a 2014 law “quietly” stopped sending performance data to a national database for consumers.
The Department of Veterans Affairs over the summer quietly stopped sharing data on the quality of care at its facilities with a national database for consumers, despite a 2014 law requiring the agency to report more comprehensive statistics to the site so veterans can make informed decisions about where to seek care.
For years, the VA provided data on a number of criteria to the Hospital Compare web site run by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in the Department of Health and Human Services. The site includes death and readmission rates and other measures of quality for public and private hospitals around the country, as well as national averages.
After the VA scandal, Congress passed the law mandating the VA to submit even more data. But the VA confirmed to USA TODAY last week that it stopped reporting its information July 1.
The VA claims that it was advised against providing performance data by HHS lawyers.
USA Today continues:
Joe Francis, director of clinical analytics and reporting at the Veterans Health Administration, said lawyers at HHS advised the VA to pull the plug until the two agencies could work out a new deal governing the sharing of information.
“It’s deeply frustrating to us, and it’s our commitment to get back online as soon as we can,” he said.
HHS declined to provide answers to a list of questions from USA TODAY but issued a statement from CMS spokesman Aaron Albright saying the agency is committed to providing additional health care information to consumers.
“We are working closely with the VA to finalize an inter-agency agreement and expect to sign the final agreement very shortly,” Albright said.
The VA is so “frustrated” that it cannot report its performance data that it took down its own website’s “quality comparisons” page.
In a separate move, the VA also took down its own site in February that provided side-by-side quality comparisons of its hospitals. That page, hospitalcompare.va.gov, is now simply blank.
Francis said the VA took it down because it didn’t meet accessibility requirements — using colors, for example, such as red, green and yellow to indicate how well a VA medical center was performing was not accessible to visually impaired people.
There are still VA web pages where users can download 140 different spreadsheets of health statistics or see ratings for VA facilities in a zip code or region, but neither shows comparisons to the private sector.
“I’m not defending what we have currently in terms of our reporting site. It is not a user-friendly interface by any means, but that site at least met the (accessibility) requirements,” Francis said.
Good news, though, your tax dollars are going to be lavished on accessibility functions for the VA website . . . while our vets continue to receive substandard care, when they get any care at all.
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