VA Posts Annual Medical Quality Report
Jan 6, 2011
Quality of Care Better than Private-Sector Health Plans
WASHINGTON - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued the 2010
annual VA Facility Quality and Safety Report on Jan. 5 that reports on
VA health care for Congressional review and offers Veterans the
opportunity to see the quality and safety findings specific to their VA
"We believe in our mission to provide the best care anywhere for
Veterans," said VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel. "This
posted report shows we are providing high quality overall and identifies
the areas where we have opportunities to improve."
This is the third year VA is posting the annual report and the second
year to do so voluntarily.
The Quality and Safety Report, at
http://www1.va.gov/health/HospitalReportCard.asp, provides a
comprehensive snapshot of the quality of care VA provides at each of 153
medical facilities across the nation. When compared to private sector
plans, VA's findings showed higher quality marks for VA health care. VA
used industry-standard measures to score the quality of the care it
delivers, and the report shows that, overall, VA's scores are better
than private sector health plans. In addition to allowing VA to provide
the public with an accounting of the quality and safety of its care, the
report cards provide an opportunity for VA to make improvements where
clinical indicators reflect cause for concern.
For instance, the findings related to quality of care for women and the
perceptions of quality of care by ethnic minorities highlight that VA
shares the same challenges as the private sector in providing equal care
to all patients.
Committed to reversing these trends, VA has responded to these
challenges in a variety of ways. For example, VA is evaluating emergency
room (ER) care for women, rolling out an education plan for ER
providers, implementing breast cancer registry to assist in follow-up of
abnormal mammograms, and training 400 more
providers in basic and advanced "mini-residencies" in women's health.
Also, VA medical centers and clinics each have a minority Veterans
program coordinator to provide outreach to minority Veterans, as well as
educate and sensitize VA staff to minority needs. The coordinators
advocate for minority Veterans by identifying gaps in services and
making recommendations to improve service delivery.
"I hope every Veteran across America reads the report and learns more
about the quality health care they have earned from a grateful nation,"
Petzel said. "VA will build from these results, addressing concerns
where needed and building even stronger programs where there has been
success. I am proud of the VA staff who serve Veterans every day."
The annual Facility Quality and Safety Report is just one of several
public postings of various health care quality metrics for VA's medical
# # # #
** The 2010 VA Safety and Quality Report is available to the public on
the VA website. Because the report contains more than two hundred pages,
only a small number of printed copies were made, and VA asks that you
please take VA's on-going efforts to be "green" into consideration
before making printed copies.
Enhanced VA Health Care Enrollment Opportunity Closing for Certain
Jan 10, 2011
WASHINGTON (Jan. 10, 2011) - Certain combat Veterans who were discharged
from active duty service before Jan. 28, 2003 have until Jan. 27, 2011
to take advantage of their enhanced health care enrollment opportunity
through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
"While there is no time limit for Veterans to apply for the VA health
care they earned with their service, I highly encourage this group of
combat Veterans to take advantage of the enhanced enrollment window to
use their health care benefits through this simplified process," said
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "VA has health care
eligibility specialists online and at every medical center eager to help
Veterans take advantage of this opportunity."
The enhanced enrollment window was provided for in Public Law 110-181,
the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008. That law
gave combat Veterans who served after Nov. 11, 1998 but separated from
service before Jan. 28, 2003, and did not enroll before Jan. 28, 2008,
three years, beginning on Jan. 28, 2008, to apply for the enhanced
These Veterans will still be able to apply for health benefits with VA
after Jan. 27, but will have their status for receiving VA health care
determined under normal VA procedures that base health care priority
status on the severity of a service-connected disability or other
eligibility factors. This would mean some Veterans could face income or
asset-based restrictions, as well as delays in establishing their VA
health care eligibility while their disability status is determined.
Since the inception of the enhanced enrollment opportunity, VA has sent
more than 750,000 personal letters to eligible Veterans and hosted
thousands of outreach efforts through OIF/OEF and enrollment
coordinators stationed at every VA medical center.
Since June 2010, VA sent another 194,000 personal letters to give every
eligible Veteran a chance to take advantage of this opportunity, but to
date only 13,000 of these Veterans have enrolled.
The law does continue to provide the enhanced health care enrollment
window to combat Veterans who were discharged or released from active
service on or after January 28, 2003. For these Veterans, the five-year
enrollment period begins on the discharge or separation date of the
service member from active duty military service, or in the case of
multiple call-ups, the most recent discharge date.
Veterans can apply for enrollment online at www.1010ez.med.va.gov/sec/vha/1010ez
<https://www.1010ez.med.va.gov/sec/vha/1010ez/> , by contacting VA at
1-877-222-VETS (8387) or with the help of a VA health care eligibility
specialist at any VA medical center. Go to www2.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp
for locations. For more information regarding enrollment, visit VA's
eligibility site at www.va.gov/healtheligibility.
Top 10 Veterans Stories
January 12, 2011
Warner Releases VA
Report on Female Veterans. In continuing coverage, an
AP (1/11, Sampson) story carried by at least 23 publications
notes that on Monday, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) released a new
Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General study that “says
female military members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan
are more likely to be diagnosed with mental-health conditions than
their male counterparts.” The study, which “also found that
the benefits administration denies payment” for post-traumatic
stress disorder claims at a higher rate for women than for men,
“advises that the Veterans Benefits Administration better inform
female veterans about specific services available to them.” Warner
has “asked Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki to correct”
such issues. According to a separate
AP (1/11) story run by at least 11 news sources, Warner visited
a VA hospital in Hampton, Virginia, on Monday “to discuss the
findings of a study on female veterans who are returning from Iraq
and Afghanistan.” The
Newport News (VA) Daily Press (1/11, Chufo), meanwhile, notes
that on Monday, Warner visited the Hampton VA, where he “said he was
concerned whether…VA was adequately meeting” the needs of women
veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The Daily Press adds
that Chandra Banks, “who’s with the nonprofit” Iraq and Afghanistan
Veterans of America, “applauded the report that…Warner pushed to
VA Office Developing Innovative Patient-Centered Model of Care for
Jan 20, 2011
Dr. Tracy Williams Gaudet to Lead Office
WASHINGTON (Jan. 19, 2011)-- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is
creating a new office to develop personal, patient-centered models of
care for Veterans who receive health care services at VA's more than
1,000 points of care across the Nation.
"VA has become one of the Nation's leaders in quality health care and is
increasingly cited as the standard to emulate," said VA Under Secretary
for Health Dr. Robert A. Petzel. "However, we must always continue to
find ways to deliver more with our systems to the incredible patients we
are honored to serve. We need to be data-driven, providing the
treatments and therapies with the best clinical evidence, and we need to
be patient-centered, never losing sight that we have been given the
noble mission to care for our Nation's Veterans, families and
The new VA Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation
began operations on Jan. 17 and is based in Arlington, Va.
The office's director, Dr. Tracy Williams Gaudet, comes to VA from Duke
University Medical Center where she has served as the executive director
of Duke Integrated Medicine since 2001. Dr. Gaudet received her Bachelor
of Arts and medical degrees from Duke University.
"The VA's vision and commitment to cultural transformation comes at a
pivotal moment for health care in this country, and I am deeply honored
to be joining VA in this important work," said Dr. Gaudet. "The Office
of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation will be a living,
learning organization in which we will discover and demonstrate new
models of care, analyze the results, and then create strategies that
allow for their translation and implementation across the VA. VA will
continue to be a national leader in innovation, and, in this way, we
will provide the future of high-quality health care to our Veterans."
The VA Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation will
have four regional implementation teams at select VA medical centers
across the country: Birmingham, Ala; East Orange, N.J.; Dallas; and Los
Each VA medical center was selected for excellence already demonstrated
in producing cultures of patient-centered care based on established
criteria. These regional teams, comprised of patient-centered care
consultants, will be responsible for facilitating the culture change for
patient-centered care at all VA facilities.
VA Publishes Final Regulation
to Aid Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange in Korea
Jan 25, 2011
Will Provide Easier Path to Health Care and Benefits
WASHINGTON - Veterans exposed to herbicides while serving along the
demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Korea will have an easier path to access
quality health care and benefits under a Department of Veterans Affairs
(VA) final regulation that will expand the dates when illnesses
caused by herbicide exposure can be presumed to be related to Agent
"VA's primary mission is to be an advocate for Veterans," said
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki "With this new regulation
VA has cleared a path for more Veterans who served in the demilitarized
zone in Korea to receive access to our quality health care and
disability benefits for exposure to Agent Orange."
Under the final regulation published today in the Federal Register,
VA will presume herbicide exposure for any Veteran who served between
April 1, 1968, and Aug. 31, 1971, in a unit determined by VA and the
Department of Defense (DoD) to have operated in an area in or near the
Korean DMZ in which herbicides were applied.
Previously, VA recognized that Agent Orange exposure could only be
conceded to Veterans who served in certain units along the Korean DMZ
between April 1968 and July 1969.
In practical terms, eligible Veterans who have specific illnesses VA
presumes to be associated with herbicide exposure do not have to prove
an association between their illness and their military service. This
"presumption" simplifies and speeds up the application process for
benefits and ensures that Veterans receive the benefits they deserve.
Click on these links to learn about Veterans' diseases associated
with Agent Orange exposure <http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/disea
and birth defects in children of Vietnam-era Veterans <http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/birth
VA encourages Veterans with covered service in Korea who have medical
conditions that may be related to Agent Orange to submit their
applications for access to VA health care and compensation as soon as
possible so the agency can begin processing their claims.
Individuals can go to website
to get a more complete understanding of how to file a claim for
presumptive conditions related to herbicide exposure, as well as what
evidence is needed by VA to make a decision about disability
compensation or survivors benefits.
Additional information about Agent Orange and VA's services for
Veterans exposed to the chemical is available at
The regulation is available on the Office of the Federal Register
More Vets Approved for Agent Orange Claims
Jan 31st 2011
By Joyce Frieden, News Editor, MedPage Today
January 29, 2011
WASHINGTON -- Veterans who served in Korea from 1968
through 1971 were probably exposed to Agent Orange,
which makes them eligible for treatment at VA
medical centers, according to a ruling from the
Department of Veterans Affairs.
"VA's primary mission is to be an advocate for
veterans," Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K.
Shinseki said in a statement. "With this new
regulation VA has cleared a path for more veterans
who served in the demilitarized zone in Korea to
receive access to our quality healthcare and
disability benefits for exposure to Agent Orange."
Agent Orange, a defoliant used to minimize
concealment for enemy combatants in wooded areas,
was used in the Vietnam War from 1965 to 1970. In
total, it has affected an estimated 2.6 million U.S.
military personnel, according to the VA.
In the past, the VA stipulated that Agent Orange
exposure could only be assumed for veterans who
served in particular units along the Korean
demilitarized zone (DMZ) between April 1968 and July
Under the new
final rule, which was published this week
the VA will presume herbicide exposure for any
veteran who served between April 1, 1968, and Aug.
31, 1971, "in a unit determined by VA and the
Department of Defense to have operated in an area in
or near the Korean DMZ in which herbicides were
applied," according to the statement.
In reality, veterans who have specific illnesses
presumed to be caused by Agent Orange don't have to
prove it happened during their military service, the
department noted. "This 'presumption' simplifies and
speeds up the application process for benefits and
ensures that veterans receive the benefits they
The statement urges affected veterans to
submit claims for access to care and
compensation as soon as possible.
This week's announcement is the second recent effort
by the VA to broaden the number of veterans eligible
for care and compensation as a result of Agent
In November 2010, the department
began distributing disability benefits to
veterans suffering from three additional illnesses
-- B cell leukemias (such as hairy cell leukemia),
Parkinson's disease, and ischemic heart diseases --
thought to stem from Agent Orange exposure.
The VA had already been paying out benefits in the
case of 15 other illnesses, including acute and
subacute transient peripheral neuropathy; chloracne;
chronic lymphocytic leukemia; multiple myeloma;
porphyria cutanea tarda; respiratory cancers; soft
tissue sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma,
chondrosarcoma, Kaposi's sarcoma, or mesothelioma);
Hodgkin's disease, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, prostate
cancer, and type 2 diabetes.