VA overrates its success stories
This problem was first brought to light by an article written by Chris Adams that appeared in the Ledger Enquirer in an article printed May 11, 2007.
The McClatchy Newspapers study shows that the VA has “habitually exaggerated” its success stories in ways that would assure Congress that the agency is doing a good job of caring for our soldier heroes. The indented areas below are details taken from the article linked above. Large portions of the original article are omitted and others paraphrased. You should take the time to read the original article in its entirety to get all the details.
The agency has touted how quickly veterans get in for appointments, but its own inspector general found that scheduling records have been manipulated repeatedly.
For example, on Oct. 2, 2003, a veteran was referred to an ophthalmology clinic. On May 3, 2004, a scheduler created an appointment, saying the “desired date” was June 21. The appointment was scheduled for June 23, the inspector general said.
Actual waiting time: 264 days. Reported waiting time: two days. Some schedulers even kept “informal waiting lists” to consult when they were ready to make formal appointments.
The VA boasted that its customer service ratings are 10 points higher than those of private-sector hospitals, but the survey it cited shows a far smaller gap.
The article details how that the gap narrows to 3 points (still favorable but not nearly 10 points higher) when adjusted to the same conditions.
Regarding the key issue of PTSD treatment, the VA said this about the PTSD treatment teams: “There are over 200 of them,” Dr. Michael Kussman told a congressional subcommittee. He indicated that they were in all of the agency’s roughly 155 hospitals.
When McClatchy asked for more detail, the VA said that about 40 hospitals didn’t have the specialized units known as “PTSD clinical teams.” Committees in the House of Representatives and the Senate and experts within the VA have encouraged the agency to put those teams into every hospital.
Dr. Jonathan Perlin, then the top VA health official, said in a radio interview that RAND “compared VA care to 12 other health-care organizations, some of the best in the country,” and found VA superior. Studies such as RAND’s showed the agency’s care to be “the best that you can get in the country,” he said.
Kussman wrote in a statement to McClatchy earlier this year that RAND “recently” reported that veterans “receive better health care than any other patients in America.”
The VA’s public affairs department wrote in a magazine that the study “was conducted by the RAND Corporation, an independent think tank,” as well as researchers from two universities.
Those are pretty lofty statements, but as it turns out, the RAND study was neither fully independent nor all that recent. A VA grant helped pay for it. Two of its main authors had received VA career-development awards, and four of its nine listed authors were affiliated with the agency, according to the study’s documentation.
It was published in 2004 but used data from 1997 to 1999, when the system treated far fewer patients than it does now. In additon, the “12 other health care organization” were not organizations at all but 12 health care regions under many mixed organizational entities.
Once again, we see some deliberate misleading statements from the VA, often directly to Congress. Yet they seem to get away with it.