Report: VA ratings hide poor quality care from public

Over the years, the Veterans Administration has worked out a plan to erase the public reports of terrible treatment and conditions in VA homes, including a 2009 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review story about a home in Philadelphia where a veteran’s leg had to be amputated after an infection in his foot went untreated for so long his toes turned black and attracted maggots.

The VA now bans the release of reports documenting the problems.

The VA relies on a Wisconsin company to inspect the homes and report back to the agency. But unlike similar inspections of private facilities, federal law now prohibits the release of long-term care ratings.

Last week, under pressure from journalists, the Veterans Administration revealed “star ratings” of nearly half of its homes. The Boston Globe and USA Today report they show the rankings in 9 of 11 measures are worse than private nursing homes.

The Minneapolis facility got four stars, St. Cloud’s and Fargo’s got three. Sioux Falls was awarded just two.

But Minneapolis got just one star for quality, St. Cloud two, and Fargo three.

The VA has “got this whole sort of parallel world out there that’s hidden,” said Robyn Grant, director of public policy and advocacy at the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, tells the Boston Globe/USA Today team. “I still can’t get over that this information is not available to people who are looking for a veteran’s home; that’s just unacceptable.”

In its release of data, the VA said the health of its home residents reflects that they’re often sicker than those in private nursing homes.

The agency did not release the more detailed information that underlies the star ratings, such as rates of infection and injury, the USA Today/Boston Globe report said.